Equine Disease Data Now Available In One Place

The USDA's new National Surveillance Unit (NSU) has established a web site on which the public can see where equine diseases such as equine infectious anemia (EIA) and vesicular stomatitis (VS) have been detected. Before the launch of this web site, finding the disease status of a state might have meant contacting several sources or playing phone tag with a handful of agencies. In addition, each state's health requirements for transported horses are available on the site. The site appears at www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/nahss/equine.

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Users can map information on equine infectious anemia occurrence and testing (above), and vesicular stomatitis (below), in addition to information on other equine diseases. 

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SCREENSHOTS FROM www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/nahss/equine

Tim Cordes, DVM, Senior Staff Veterinarian at the USDA, explained that the United States Animal Health Association's Infectious Diseases of Horses Committee in combination with the American Horse Council in 2004 requested "literally a one-stop shopping site for the reporting of all the equine disease surveillance that USDA does." He hopes the site will be used by a variety of individuals across the horse industry, from regulatory veterinarians to horse owners.

"If the owner, trainer, and veterinarian for a horse want to transport a horse from Kentucky to an event in New Mexico during a VS outbreak, for example, you could probably get the horse there, but getting it back would be difficult due to interstate movement restrictions (on animals that have been in a state where VS is active)," said Cordes. "With that in mind, the answer is that at every level--the owner, trainer, veterinarian, and the state or regulatory health officials--all need to know what's going on with both the disease status and the animal movement requirements."

The site shows up-to-date equine case counts of Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE), EIA, VS, Western equine encephalitis (WEE), and West Nile virus (WNV) by state and county. It also includes historical information on each disease. The public can use interactive maps of current disease prevalence and track disease occurrence over time.

The program began with the logging of equine VS cases in 2005. "We identified the first disease that was probably going to affect the industry the most with regards to international and interstate movement," said Cordes. "The next one that has great interest is EIA. We are frequently asked about the prevalence and distribution of this disease relative to the need to do regular Coggins testing."

Since the USDA receives annual reports of positive EIA cases, it has a wealth of EIA information that horse owners can review. For example, a user can create customized map views of EIA test results from 1972-2005 that can be printed or saved for use in another applications.

"The next one that we wished to report for the industry was WNV," Cordes continued. "We saw that numbers were being posted by CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) through their ArboNet reporting service. But the problem is they report veterinary numbers and no one teases out the equine numbers. One state might be reporting surveillance on pigeons and another doing a study on black bear; but all of these cases were being listed as veterinary cases."

So Cordes and his colleagues at NSU conceptualized and launched the arboviral reporting module, whereby state veterinarians update their equine WNV numbers weekly. They have since added Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) and Western equine encephalitis (WEE).

Horse owners are encouraged to browse the site and experiment with the tools that it offers. Visit www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/nahss/equine and click on the links below the disease you are interested in learning more about. Toggle buttons on the maps to view different years' data, and see how your state has fared in terms of equine disease in the past. If you're thinking of traveling to a different state with your horses, look for the link to that state's interstate shipment regulations.

About the Author

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.

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