Thursday, February 20, 2020

New online tool to track strangles outbreaks

(c) M Andrews. Strangles submandibular lymph node abscess
Owners and veterinary surgeons can now get up to date information about strangles outbreaks in the United Kingdom thanks to a new online tool that has been developed by the Animal Health Trust (AHT). 

Strangles is a common infectious disease of horses that is found throughout the world. Not only is it an important welfare concern, but it also causes significant economic costs to owners and disruption of competition schedules.

The website, developed by the Animal Heath Trust, with support of the Horse Trust and SEIB, Is part of the Surveillance of Equine Strangles project, which was launched in 2019 by the AHT, in collaboration with the Royal Veterinary College and the Universities of Liverpool and Melbourne, and with financial support from The Horse Trust.

The developers hope that the website will prove valuable to people owning and working with horses, especially those travelling around the country to areas which have seen higher rates of strangles diagnoses.

Being able to see where strangles is being diagnosed will allow owners to increase their vigilance and biosecurity /hygiene measures when they know that they are in, or are planning to travel to, areas where there is a higher risk of encountering the disease.

 “Not only do we want to help contribute to research into Strangles but one of our key aims is to share our findings with the equine industry to help keep the UK’s horses and ponies, happy and healthy and to reduce the spread of strangles.”

The information for the website is gleaned anonymously from veterinary laboratories around the UK when they confirm a diagnosis of strangles infection. It includes data on the location of the vet practice submitting the sample, the type of horse or pony from which the sample was collected, and details of the type of sample and methods used for diagnosis.

The new online tool includes a useful mapping function, which highlights regions where cases have been confirmed. It also allows users to change date ranges so they can view information particularly relevant to them and their location.

Dr Richard Newton, Director of Disease Surveillance and Epidemiology at the Animal Health Trust, said: “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.

“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 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.

For more details, see:

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