Commentary: Biosecurity for Infectious Disease Control

Commentary: Biosecurity for Infectious Disease Control

Managers of equine event facilities also have a part to play. Financially, they want events to proceed without major disease interruptions and potential quarantines for the sake of the horses, the owners, and basic economics.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Preventing infectious diseases has often been perceived by horse owners as “which vaccines do I need this year?” While vaccines are an important part of an annual health care program, controlling and preventing diseases through management and disinfection has only come to the forefront in the past 20 years.

Veterinary and university hospitals, because they house sick animals along with healthy ones awaiting routine surgeries, have been at the fore­front of what is now routinely known as biosecurity. Large hospitals now often have an individual solely dedicated to infectious disease control.

The recent recognition of an equine herpesvirus variant causing neurologic disease and several large outbreaks spanning multiple states has horse owners really understanding the critical importance of biosecurity. The threat of “Was my horse exposed?” looms when a herpesvirus infected horse has been confirmed at a racetrack, horse event, or horse farm. Unfortunately, it sometimes takes a potentially deadly disease to get people’s attention.

So, as we approach the spring and summer with hours of riding and horse enjoyment, people need to be cognizant about not sharing equipment with others without disinfecting afterward; of washing their hands after handling other horses; of avoiding nose-to-nose contact of their horses with others; quarantining horses when they return to the farm; and other recommendations from the Lloyd’s Equine Disease Quarterly of July 2011. They do make a difference! As always, consult a veterinarian about an appropriate vaccination program and biosecurity recommendations for your particular circumstances.

Managers of equine event facilities also have a part to play. Financially, they want events to proceed without major disease interruptions and potential quarantines for the sake of the horses, the owners, and basic economics. However, how many stalls at busy facilities are completely cleaned and disinfected before the next round of horses arrives? The horse owners need to take personal responsibility to inspect their assigned stalls (yes, even when arriving at 2 a.m.), and clean them if necessary. Use your own equipment, including buckets, lead ropes, cross ties, hay nets, pitchforks, etc.

Biosecurity and disease awareness also emphasizes the important function of the International Collating Report in virtually every edition of the Lloyd’s Equine Disease Quarterly. Knowing when outbreaks of diseases occur in your own country, as well as others gives an idea of what illnesses are circulating. It also emphasizes how diseases can travel with horses internationally.

One reader emailed the question of why accurate numbers of strangles cases were not available for the United States in the International Collating Report. Not all equine diseases are reportable to state veterinarians or centrally located collating centers for equine disease reporting. Internationally, equine disease reporting varies from country to country, and can be a daunting task with current limited resources. However, the expansion of countries providing detailed reports received at the International Collating Center has significantly grown in the past 20 years and has made the report a valuable resource.

CONTACT: Roberta Dwyer, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVPM—859/218-1122—rmdwyer@uky.edu—Maxwell H. Gluck Equine Research Center, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky


This is an excerpt from Equine Disease Quarterly, funded by underwriters at Lloyd's, London, brokers, and their Kentucky agents.


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Equine Disease Quarterly

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