Letters: 05/01

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West Nile Vaccine
Your headline “West Nile Virus Vaccine a Rumor” (April 2001) caught my eye as I had just attended a presentation by the NJ State Dept of Agriculture and the Hunterdon County Board of Health on West Nile Virus. Because a horse died from WNV last fall up the road from our farm, I have been involved in finding out as much as I can about this disease.

We volunteered to have our horses blood tested and are waiting for the results. We also volunteered to have our farm monitored by the county’s mosquito control unit. So far we have no infected mosquitoes or vectors. But we are still at risk.

As we continue to practice best management to prevent on-site mosquito breeding, we look to the pharmaceutical businesses for a vaccine to protect our animals. Anyone who has seen death from this disease lives in fear of it affecting their horses. I feel your headline gives the impression that the possibility of a vaccine this year is a myth. That is not what we were told by our state Department of Agriculture. We understand that a vaccine “may” be available as early as this summer on an experimental basis, and we hope it turns into a reality.

We also hope the USDA expedites a vaccine release, as expert predictions indicate the virus will be more widespread in 2001. Since WNV affects humans as well, it is a public health hazard that should be taken seriously. Those disseminating information on WNV should consider their words carefully, so as not to give incorrect impressions. The emotional and economic impact of WNV can be quite serious.

-Ilona S. English
Ringoes, NJ

At about the same time that article was printed, the USDA sent a notice that it will now accept applications for licensure of WNV vaccines. We know several U.S. manufacturers are working to develop a vaccine, but at this time we don’t know of any that have submitted their data for safety and efficacy to the USDA. The information we have seen so far isn’t encouraging.

It is indeed possible that a vaccine may be available for testing this year or that it may get conditional approval. However, we feel the USDA’s required proof of efficacy for an equine vaccine isn’t strong enough and thus can be misleading.

We feel that getting horsemen’s hopes up that a vaccine will be ready this year — and even more so that it will be effective — may be wishful thinking. Even worse, those hopes may deter people from taking the WNV danger seriously and thus ignore the management steps that you have taken to protect your own horses.

We applaud New Jersey’s efforts to make horsemen aware of WNV dangers, and we wish everyone would be as aggressive as you are in the concern. We are also as anxious as you are for a viable vaccine to be ready this year, but from what we’ve seen so far, we don’t think it will be.

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Parelli Rope Halter
Your November 2000 tied rope halters article just migrated to my desk, and I must thank you for the flattering (and correct!) comments on our rope halter and lead.

Parelli Natural Horsemanship has spent time, money and energy developing its line of equipment. We may not be the least expensive, but we understand that, for instance, our ropes have life and balance and our halter and hackamore are incredibly light yet strong. These are the details that make the difference between mediocre horsemanship skills and truly great ones.

-Kate Riordan
Parelli Natural Horsemanship
Pagosa Springs, CO