Timely reporting of equine diseases crucial in era of global horse movements

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All countries need to be encouraged to participate in the sharing of equine disease events, says a US professor.
All countries need to be encouraged to participate in the sharing of equine disease events, says a US professor.

Relatively few countries regularly report equine disease events through appropriate channels, despite the volume of international horse movements, a commentary in the latest issue of Equine Disease Quarterly notes.

“Notwithstanding the widely acknowledged importance of international reporting of equine disease events, regrettably only a small number of countries do so on a regular basis,” Professor Peter Timoney, of the Maxwell H. Gluck Equine Research Center wrote.

All countries need to be encouraged to participate in the sharing of disease events via current channels of communication, he says.

“Timely reporting and dissemination of such information is crucial to contain disease outbreaks and minimize the risk of international spread of diseases.

“Furthermore, addressing deficiencies in the known global distribution of various equine diseases will require more widespread participation by countries. This is critical if the health of equine populations worldwide is to be safe-guarded in the longer term.

“Not to be overlooked in any consideration of the need for access to information on the occurrence of equine diseases at a national and international level, is the importance of periodic surveillance of a country’s resident equine population for a particular disease or range of diseases.”

Surveillance provides a snapshot of the disease status of a country’s equine population at a point in time.

Timoney said the need for reporting disease events by countries worldwide has never been more important, in an era of globalization of trade and expansion in the volume of international movement of horses for the purpose of competing or breeding.

“The continued growth and success of the equine industry is critically dependent on the timely sharing of information on disease occurrences, if horses are to move internationally with minimal impediment.”

Movement can take place only in an environment in which the risk of disease transfer, inherent in trade between countries, can be mitigated to an acceptable and safe level, he says.

Disease transfer can take place either from an imported horse to the resident population in the importing country, or vice versa, where an imported horse is infected following entry into a country.

“Critical to mitigation of disease transfer in either instance, is the availability of information on the disease status of the exporting and importing countries.

“In turn, mitigation is dependent on each country assuming responsibility for reporting occurrence of equine diseases listed by the World Organisation for Animal Health or Office International des Epizooties (OIE), to that organization.

“It is in a country’s best interest from an international trade viewpoint, to notify the OIE of occurrences of listed diseases in a timely, transparent, and detailed manner.

“Moreover, there are equine diseases additional to those listed by the OIE that warrant international reporting because of their animal health significance and potential economic impact.”

Timoney notes that two entities, the International Collating Centre (ICC), Newmarket, United Kingdom, and Réseau d’Epidémio Surveillance en Pathologie Equine (RESPE) in France currently post alerts on the internet of confirmed occurrences of OIE listed and other equine diseases, as they are reported from different sources.

An increasing number of countries besides the UK and France have developed national equine surveillance and reporting programs such as the Equine Disease Communication Center (EDCC) in the United States, that serve as reference sources of reliable information, reporting disease events for their respective equine industries in a timely manner.

Equine Disease Quarterly is funded by underwriters at Lloyd’s, London.

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