Hot Livestock Auction Topic: West Nile Threat To Horses

MOUNT HOPE, Ohio (AP) - The West Nile virus threat to horses was the hot topic at the annual livestock auction that ended Friday in the Amish enclave of Mount Hope in northeast Ohio.

"I think all of us are just waiting for that first hard frost so we can feel better," Eli Yoder said. "Until then, we just hope our horses don't come down with it."

Horses pull the plows and buggies of the Amish, who shun many modern conveniences because of their religious beliefs.

The virus is spread mainly through mosquito bites and also has infected people and birds. Health officials emphasize that it cannot be passed from horse to human or human to horse.

Yoder and a brother were looking for quickstepping Standardbreds used to pull the buggies that ply the back roads in Holmes County, about 60 miles south of Cleveland.

Yoder compared the annual livestock auction to a treasure hunt, with the West Nile threat an added question mark in the mix.

"You don't know what will come in. But it's different now because of the virus," he said.

Bob Collett, managing veterinarian of the auction, said the auction followed state guidelines in asking sellers to vaccinate their livestock.

"We can't force them to do so, but certainly we're going to be watching," he said.

He said most Amish do vaccinate their livestock.

Holmes County and adjacent Wayne County have had more than a third of the state's identified cases of West Nile virus, according to Holmes County Agricultural Extension agent Dean Slates.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture has reported virus cases involving at least 524 horses in 76 of the state's 88 counties.

Ohio has had 300 probable human cases and five confirmed cases, and the disease is suspected in 14 deaths.

Horse vaccine supplies have been sufficient, said Dr. William Saville, a veterinarian with the Ohio Extension Services.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)