With show and racing season well underway plus exposure to contagious diseases via mossquito and tick bites, and other situations leading to diseases in horses, both horse owners and veterinarians need to take responsibility for preventing equine diseases.
According to AAEP Guidelines: In the event of an infectious disease outbreak, veterinarians are expected to recommend measures for prompt containment of disease that involve isolation and treatment of affected individuals while preventing spread of disease to the unaffected population.
The purpose of these guidelines is to emphasize the importance of an effective first response by providing a clear, concise action plan encompassing the clinical signs exhibited to a specific diagnosis of the disease.
The veterinarian on scene is the most qualified person to guide the outbreak control plan and is critical to effective outbreak control. Each infectious disease outbreak is unique, and an existing plan may require modification for specific situations.
If necessary, clinical observations, laboratory results and epidemiologic data, once properly collected, may be evaluated by infectious disease experts off-site.
In the event of a reportable disease, veterinarians are required to abide by state and federal regulations. These guidelines do not supersede any existing state or federal protocol.
Among the veterinarianâs initial responsibilities to prevent the spread of contagious diseases are Do No Harmâdo not rush into a stall/barn until you have a plan on how to leave it and respond to the âworst case scenarioâ until you have a specific diagnosis.
Veterinarians and horse owners need to have an established response plan for control of contagious disease outbreaksâa planned response is the most effective tool for minimizing outbreak impact.
Maintain a log, recording events as they occur, including:
- Case identificationâwhich horse(s) got sick, where, and when
- Control measures implemented
- Horse movementâwithin facility, entering and exiting facility
- Diagnostic testing results
- Communications with practitioners, horsemen, and regulatory veterinarians
Establish effective communication, including:
- Regular meetings providing clear information and simple instructions to
- Facility management
- Related industry affiliates
Note: Effective communication minimizes speculation and establishes expectations.
- Manage time effectively.
- Delegate tasks that do not require execution by a licensed veterinarian to horse owner or handler
- Utilize licensed veterinary technicians for sample collection, physical inspections, temperature recording, etc.