Handling infectious diseases outbreaks at equine events (Proceedings) - Veterinary Healthcare
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Handling infectious diseases outbreaks at equine events (Proceedings)


CVC IN WASHINGTON, D.C. PROCEEDINGS


Veterinarians are the first line of defense against infectious disease outbreaks. Current problem and case based equine medicine likely does not prepare new graduates in outbreak control. Control of an infectious disease is based on correct application of the principles of population biology and transmission dynamics of a particular infectious organism, basic microbiology, and basic epidemiology. Overall, training in diagnostic medicine is declining due to loss of state and federal support in our programs and reprioritization of veterinary student training programs that primarily focus on clinical programs. Unfortunately, this does not lighten the responsibility of the primary care veterinarian in control of infectious diseases and in the liability associated with failure to avert economic disaster or animal loss.

Event planning and disaster avoidance

The following information should be recorded for ALL horses at a particular EVENT even before clinical illness is apparent, preferably at arrival. Owner, trainer, and name of horse should be recorded. Origins of horses and destinations of horses should be recorded. All stalling locations of these individual animals on the respective grounds should be recorded both retrospectively and prospectively. The identities of all personnel in contact with the horse should be known by recoding stall entry, personnel records, and activities such as grooming care, veterinary care and husbandry (feed men, braiders, clippers, farriers, etc) should be maintained. While a horse show is public event, the stabling area should not be!

In addition, management should require a pre-event questionnaire that assesses immunization and health status of the horse BEFORE stalling.

     1. Does your horse have a fever today?
     2. Has your horse had a fever within the last 7-10 days?
     3. Does your horse have any of the following clinical signs (circle all that apply): loose stool, problems walking or keeping balance, snotty nose or cough?
     4. Has your horse been stabled with any horses that have had a fever within the last 7-10 days or has your horse been stabled with any horses that have had any of the following clinical signs (circle all that apply): loose stool, problems walking or keeping balance, snotty nose or cough?
     5. Has your horse been shipped within the last 2 weeks by commercial (or private transport with multiple horses)?
     6. Has your horse been vaccinated for the core immunizations that include Rabies, Eastern equine encephalomyelitis virus, Western equine encephalomyelitis virus, West Nile virus, and Tetanus yearly and within the last year? Has your horse been vaccinated within six months against herpesvirus, influenza, or Streptococcus equi? Has your horse had a Coggins test within the last 6 months?

Steps once possible infectious disease case is identified

Call the State Veterinarian right away. State veterinarians are very sensitive to the economics of disease outbreaks. Early communication is essential for disaster avoidance!

History assessment

In order to assess the potential for an infectious disease outbreak, a simple 12 point questionnaire is useful to require owners to answer for all horses are currently on the property which again goes over the pre-event history but identifies AT RISK horses.

Questions regarding the individual animal:

     1. Does your horse have a fever today?
     2. Has your horse had a fever within the last 7-10 days?
     3. Does your horse have any of the following clinical signs (circle all that apply): loose stool, problems walking or keeping balance, snotty nose or cough?
     4. Has your horse been stabled with any horses that have had a fever within the last 7-10 days?
     5. Has your horse been stabled with any horses that have had any of the following clinical signs (circle all that apply): loose stool, problems walking or keeping balance, snotty nose or cough?
     6. Has your horse been shipped within the last 2 weeks by commercial (or private transport with multiple horses)?
     7. Has your horse been to a racetrack, horse show, polo match, public riding trail, or comingled with other horses from other farms within the past two weeks?
     8. Has your horse been to a veterinary clinic or farrier shop within the past two weeks?
     9. Has your horse been tube dewormed, had teeth floated, body clipped or had another activity where the equipment must be shared between animals?
     10. Has your horse been vaccinated for the core immunizations that include Rabies, Eastern equine encephalomyelitis virus, Western equine encephalomyelitis virus, West Nile virus, and Tetanus yearly and within the last year?
     11. Has your horse been vaccinated within six months against herpesvirus, influenza, or Streptococcus equi?
     12. Has your horse had a Coggins test within the last 6 months?
     13. Obviously most of the answers to horses coming to a venue may not be factual but many owners are forthright and are willing to answer honestly. These documents provide outbreak veterinarians with a fast guide for AT RISK horses if something should occur. Also venue holders can use this information and understanding of the complex nature of their arriving horse population and will become more sensitive to steps to avoid future outbreaks.

Population assessment

Once a contagious disease is suspected, these are the ADDITIONAL assessments that must rapidly be made regarding the population.

     1. Origin of horse if shipped recently. This must also include all companies and professionals associated with the actual hauling.
     2. Complete immunization history of the whole barn or section. Preferably the information should provide you with an idea of how many vaccines specific for a disease were administered over the lifetime of these animals in question.
     3. Any history of non-infectious causes of increased rectal temperature within the population.
     4. An assessment of previous exposure to S. equi equi should be made no matter how long ago this occurred due to risk for chronic carrier status and recrudesce of shedding.
     5. State-wide and regional information regarding infectious disease activity.


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