Interactive site tracks strangles diagnoses in near real-time

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A new online resource showing where the latest cases of strangles have been diagnosed has been launched in Britain, and it may be extended internationally.

It is expected to become a vital tool for people owning and working with horses, especially those travelling around the country to areas that have experienced higher rates of diagnoses of the disease.

The interactive website has been launched by the Animal Health Trust as part of its Surveillance of Equine Strangles project, aims to track the more than 600 outbreaks of strangles in the country each year.

The new online tool includes a mapping function highlighting regions where cases have been confirmed, and allows users to change date ranges to view information particularly relevant to them and their location.

Information based on the geography of vet practices making diagnoses, the demographics of horses being confirmed with infection, the ways diagnoses are made and the types of samples being submitted for lab testing, is also included.

Strangles, as one of the most commonly diagnosed infectious diseases of horses worldwide, causes immense welfare problems for horses and significant economic costs to their owners.

Users can look at the time course of diagnoses over longer time periods to highlight seasonal trends, and view the most important associated clinical signs and the combinations of these, as reported on submission forms sent with samples to diagnostic laboratories.

“This new website provides comprehensive insights about the disease in a very up-to-date manner in a way that has never been available before,” said Dr Richard Newton, Director of Disease Surveillance and Epidemiology at the Animal Health Trust.

“However, the resource is only as useful as the data supplied from vets on the ground. I would urge colleagues to help us to keep this resource as up-to-date and comprehensive as possible by completing full details on submission forms being sent to any laboratory, so this information can contribute – anonymously – to the national picture of Strangles.”

The Surveillance of Equine Strangles scheme was launched in April 2019 by the Animal Health Trust, in collaboration with the Royal Veterinary College and the Universities of Liverpool and Melbourne, thanks to funding from The Horse Trust. This followed a year of research and development to create a platform for collating information on laboratory diagnoses of the disease and recruitment of laboratories across the UK to the scheme.

The Surveillance of Equine Strangles scheme was recently presented to an international audience, at the first European Meeting of Equine Infectious Diseases in Normandy, France. The Animal Health Trust now hopes to extend the online tool to include international data. This will enable meaningful comparisons to be made of strangles in different countries, which in turn could lead to new strategies on how to improve control of the disease in different parts of the world.

Abbi McGlennon, PhD student at the Animal Health Trust, who led the development of the resource, said: “Our aim with the Surveillance of Equine Strangles scheme is to reduce the spread of the disease. This website is one of the first key tools to emerge from the larger surveillance project. It joins the dots across the equine industry by collating information from laboratory-confirmed strangles diagnoses and communicating this back in almost real time. I’m excited about the prospect of extending this internationally, and the difference that could make for horses globally.

“We are extremely grateful to The Horse Trust for funding the wider project, and to SEIB Insurance Brokers for supporting the website.”

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