UK Equine Influenza Study Receives Funding from Zoetis

It’s a dilemma many horse owners and managers face when a horse comes down with equine influenza. Do you aggressively seek treatment at the outset of illness in hopes of warding off any potential secondary bacterial infection, or do you wait to see if any further infections develop before treating?

The influenza virus is a significant cause of respiratory disease in horses. The virus itself is not treatable and must run its course; however, many horses develop secondary bacterial infections, which can cause severe pneumonia and increased recovery time. This results in lost riding or training time as well as additional nonmonetary costs to the owner of having a sick horse.

Jill Stowe, PhD, director of University of Kentucky’s Ag Equine Programs and associate professor within the Department of Agricultural Economics, will conduct a study recently funded by Zoetis Inc. to examine the economic considerations of both approaches.

The economic considerations of the treat-now vs. wait-and-see alternatives will examine not only explicit treatment costs, but also the extent to which the owner/manager prefers to avoid having a horse feel poorly.

The study will consist of two parts. Part 1 will be an examination of the actual expected costs of the two strategies. The researchers will measure the likelihood of infection, the expected number of days the horse is ill, and the expenses associated with that illness, including medication, veterinary visits, stabling at the veterinary clinic, and any other costs associated with treating a sick horse.

For this phase of the project, the research team will collect data from field practitioners to estimate the cost of treatment for influenza signs, signs of secondary bacterial infections, and treatment with an antibiotic developed by Zoetis for lower respiratory tract infections, Excede, at the first fever episode post-flu exposure.

Part 2 will consist of estimating owner/manager’s willingness to pay for their horse to avoid illness. During this phase a questionnaire will be distributed to 1,000 Kentucky horse owners, and the researchers will use a common social science research technique called conjoint analysis to estimate respondents’ willingness to pay for different attributes of a treatment strategy.

The study is expected to cost about $57,000.

Holly Wiemers, MA, communications director for UK Ag Equine Programs, and Jill Stowe, PhD, UK Ag Equine Programs director and associate professor in UK’s Department of Agricultural Economics provided this information.

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More information on Gluck Equine Research Center and UK Ag Equine Programs.

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