Equine Disease Risk Considerations

Guide to Preventing Equine Contagious Diseases: Plan, Prevent, Protect

If you are looking for more information on how to protect your part of the horse world, some folks over in the UK have put together a really nice booklet that aids in planning and protecting your equine operation. You can purchase the book or you can use the interactive, online version. (Please note the book displayed and functioned fine for me in Chrome and Internet Explorer as well as Safari on an iPad but would not display in Firefox.)

It has sections on common diseases, check lists for evaluating your operation, guidance on dealing with outbreaks, along with several other aspects. It is 20 pages in length. My quick review leads me to think this is a handy tool that could be useful to a lot of folks.

Saudi Arabia and African Horse Sickness

For those of you that might be in the equine importation business (or need more things to worry about when it comes to equine), in 2009 (yes, 2009) Saudi Arabia petitioned for recognition as being free of African Horse Sickness (AHS – one of the things we learn to recognize and hopefully mitigate while training on Plum Island to become Foreign Animal Disease Diagnosticians).

The reason I bring this matter up now is because USDA has now proposed to remove Saudi Arabia from the list of countries affected by AHS. This proposal was published for public comment in the June 12, 2014, issue of the Federal Register.

For those of you with insomnia, I’ve attached the official report USDA APHIS VS Evaluation of AHS – Saudi Arabia.

And here is the published notice: USDA AHS-Saudi Arabia Federal Register

West Nile Virus (WNV)

Lastly – a plug about about WNV. A couple of mosquito pools have already tested positive for West Nile around the state (Maricopa and Yuma counties). So please be vigilant in keeping mosquito numbers down and your horse immunity up (aka vaccinate!)

Enjoy the ride!

Vesicular Stomatitis Diagnosed in Colorado

Folks – VSV continues spreading; restrictions are now placed on entries from CO…

A Las Animas County premises is under quarantine after a horse tested
positive for vesicular stomatitis (VS); the horse had not recently
traveled and is believed to have been infected by insects.

“While this is the 1st case diagnosed in Colorado in 2012, there have been several cases identified in the Rio Grande River valley of New Mexico,” said State Veterinarian, Dr. Keith Roehr. “This Colorado case represents a northern movement of the
virus that has been typical in past years.”


Brownie points to the folks who can distinguish jetsam from flotsam. There is a significant difference. Precision is important.

I stopped for just a minute to throw these items overboard. Not only am I trying to lighten the load. But also I’m badly behind in my goal to keep folks up-to-date on various topics the folks in SVO are involved with.

First: Alex the Intern – our very first! The experience with Alex was a huge success (at least from my point of view and I believe others’ as well.) She blogged about much of it.

Second: VSV in NM – yes Vesicular Stomatitis Virus is still with our neighbors to the east, and continuing to spread around that state. Please be careful and check before heading that direction. You wouldn’t want to stay longer than you planned, or leave your animals behind just so you could get back home. USDA posts situation reports every week.

Third: AI in MX – Mexican officials continue fighting the avian influenza epidemic in Jalisco. According to ProMED (International Society for Infectious Diseases) they are implementing vaccination around the infected area in an attempt to contain it (in addition to slaughtering the infected and exposed birds). And for those of you curious about approaches to such epidemics, that’s a very standard approach. The numbers involved often astound folks though.

There are several more items that I wanted to share. But I’ve already run out of time to spare. I hope to get back to this a lot sooner. In the meantime, enjoy the ride.

HPAI in Mexico

For those of you involved or interested in bird business(es), I’m passing along notification we’ve received from USDA APHIS VS of confirmation of avian influenza in the state of Jalisco, Mexico.

On June 25, 2012 the Mexican Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) contacted APHIS to confirm the detection of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) H7N3 virus in three large commercial operations in the Mexican State of Jalisco.   The state of Jalisco does not export poultry to the United States.

VS will take the following actions, which are standard when HPAI is detected in a country that was considered free:

    • Initially, VS will consider the entire country affected with HPAI.
    • Once VS is able to evaluate the epidemiology information provided to us from Mexico, we may be able to narrow the nationwide ban, likely to a single state.  After regionalizing to the state level, we may be able to regionalize further, to the county level.  This will depend on an assessment of the risk and the effectiveness of movement restrictions from the affected area.
    • U.S. port personnel will be notified through a port alert.
    • APHIS will be in close contact with Mexican government officials to gather epidemiological information regarding the progress of the disease control operations in the State of Jalisco.

We do not anticipate that the detection will have an extensive impact on trade. Only two establishments in Mexico export fresh poultry meat to the United States.  Based on our regulations, these establishments only receive U.S. origin poultry for further processing (cut up, deboned, packaged), which is then exported back to the U.S. This trade will not be affected by the HPAI detection.  Except for returning US-origin pet birds, live birds are not allowed from HPAI-affected countries. Over the past year, ten returning pets of U.S.-origin were imported from Mexico, along with one shipment of 40 birds for commercial sale.  No live poultry or eggs for hatching were legally imported from Mexico during that timeframe.

As more information becomes available, we will continue to provide updates on the situation.

Vesicular Stomatitis Virus – AZ Restrictions on NM Livestock

Due to the confirmation of Vesicular Stomatitis Virus in equine in NM, AZ has tightened entry requirements on livestock entering from NM.

A CVI (certificate of veterinary inspection) otherwise known as a health certificate is now required within 15 days of entry for all livestock from NM.

Also a prior Entry Permit # is now also required for equine entering AZ (as has been the case for other livestock) so that we may verify origin is not within a known quarantine area.

I know this adds to folks’ obstacles to travel into AZ. But I hope folks realize we’re trying hard to prevent this disease from creating bigger problems for folks in AZ.

You can read the entire Administrative Order at the AZ Dept of AG web site or follow the link I put in.

Vesicular Stomatitis Virus Update – Canadian Restrictions

New Import Measures for Horses Entering Canada from the United States

Canadian Food Inspection Agency has implemented entry restrictions on horses which originate in NM from entering Canada. Canadian announcement is here.

AZ is also in the process of tightening entry requirements on all livestock entering from NM. The Administrative Order to implement these changes is in the process of being signed and will be posted shortly. Stay tuned!

Vesicular Stomatitis

Earlier today, Veterinary Services confirmed vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) infection (New Jersey serotype) on an equine premises in Otero County, New Mexico.  This is the first detection of active VSV in the United States since June 2010.

Heads-up folks. Looks like we may be in for a bumpy ride this fly season (as there is indication that VS tends to be associated with certain biting midges/gnats.)

You can find VS’ Fact Sheet at that link. You can also review history of recent outbreaks.

I’ll be posting more information and any changes in entry requirements to AZ as soon as we’ve assessed the situation.

UPDATE 2012-04-30 4:19 PM MST

The infection is in equine residing in Otero County outside the town of Tularosa. Two horses in a herd of five have been found to have lesions caused by Vesicular Stomatitis Virus.

The animals in question are under quarantine by order of the New Mexico State Veterinarian. None of the five horses in the herd has been off the premises during the last 12 months.

In co-operation with USDA-Veterinary Services, the New Mexico Livestock Board (NMLB) is conducting  surveillance examinations of all livestock in the immediate area.  At this time no further cases have been identified.

The confirmation of this case is the first to be reported in the U.S. this year. As a Foreign Animal Disease this case will be reported internationally to the OIE (the world Organization for Animal Health), as well as nationally to all states.


What’s that old gag? Be alert – the world needs more lerts!

Sorry – sometimes I can’t help myself. (My dad’s often said there was no help for me, too!) But I did want to make you aware of a structure that’s in place in AZ called ALIRT – Arizona Livestock Incident Response Team.

If you recall from Some Numbers, we’ve got quite a few livestock roaming across the ranges of AZ. Sometimes bad things happen to large numbers of them. There’s a group of folks, primarily large animal veterinarians, that are willing and able to respond to such needs. That’s a really boiled-down summation of what ALIRT is all about.

So let me give those of you with more time a few more details about ALIRT (or follow that link to the U of A hosted page that provides details and further links.)

I mentioned these folks are primarily large animal veterinarians. But also involved are Cooperative Extension staff, folks whose jobs have them spending a lot of time roaming the ranges of Arizona and working with livestock and livestock producers. All these people have a background in livestock health, husbandry and some dealing with diseases (not only infectious ones but also toxicities as many of the plants in the desert can be quite deadly.)

Most livestock producers work with a veterinarian if not regularly, at least now and then. So hopefully disease matters get noticed before too much damage is done. And from a government perspective, a handful of diseases have been targeted for eradication or control along with the foreign ones that we screen to keep out.

Essentially then on one hand we have folks to deal with the day-to-day troubles (practitioners they’re often called). And we have folks who run out and deal with the foreign animal diseases (FADDs in the government jargon). But some years back it was recognized that this pattern left something of a gap. In that gap occasionally we develop some homegrown problems that threaten to get out of hand.

So from a gap analysis (sometimes I can’t help but fall back to my systems/TQM – total quality management – days) grew the idea of a group that could fill the gap: ALIRT.

ADA, UofA Cooperative Extension, AZ Cattlemen all got together to bring the idea to life. Close to 20 folks are now ALIRT trained, most being private veterinarians. These folks volunteered for the extra training and have been provided some extra tools so they are better prepared to deal with these problems when they arise.

It works this way. A livestock producer whose been having more than the usual troubles notifies her/his veterinarian or extension agent. That person then contacts an ALIRT veterinarian or a member of the ALIRT Committee. The committee evaluates the situation and decides whether it meets the criteria for an ALIRT response.

I know it may strike you as wrong-headed that a committee make a decision about a matter that involves a fair amount of urgency. But 1 – it’s a small committee, about a half-dozen of us; and 2 – given modern telecom infrastructure near-instant communications has become commonplace for nearly everyone; and 3 – if need be there are plans in place to act without a quorum’s consent. Bottom line is that the system works well.

In the short time I’ve been involved, it’s been activated 3 times, including one that merited the FBI being apprised of the matter. Fortunately that instance did not conclude with the discovery of a malicious act; only an accidental one as we fairly quickly determined.

So getting back for a moment to my recent blog entries about numbers, if you consider the ADA folks, the USDA folks and now the ALIRT folks, that tallies to less than 50 that protect the livestock of the state of AZ. But it’s very reassuring to me as the person responsible for the safety of so much, to know I have such a wonderful group of folks that I can depend upon.