Published: 16 Mar 2017 | Last Updated: 21 Mar 2017 09:17:31

A new grant has been awarded by the Alborada Trust to Professor Josh Slater, Dr Jackie Cardwell and Dr Sarah Rosanowski to work on "Exotic disease preparedness: how prepared is the United Kingdom for an exotic disease outbreak?"

International movement of horses is recognised as a risk for the spread of infectious equine diseases.  Increasing international movement of horses, changes to regulations regarding these movements, and illicit practices, have led to outbreaks of Equine Infectious Anaemia (EIA) in Ireland and the United Kingdom (UK) in 2006, 2010 and 2012.  The Irish outbreak was associated with importation of unlicensed plasma into Ireland from Italy.  The UK outbreaks occurred in a linked group of non-racing horses imported from Romania via Belgium. 

While infectious disease control and management is highly regulated in the Thoroughbred industry, little is known about horses kept for non-racing purposes.  The density of the UK equine population means that non-racing horses have the potential to act as a reservoir for infections and to facilitate spread of infection to the racing population, acting as an Achilles heel for the industry as a whole and for the Thoroughbred sector in particular.  However, as little is known about awareness of exotic disease and preparedness for exotic disease incursion in the non-racing population, this study will focus on the non-racing horse owner in particular the leisure horse sector.

The purpose of this grant is to:

  1. Investigate current knowledge, understanding and attitudes of non-racing horse owners to exotic diseases and identify potential blocks to uptake and adoption of principles of exotic disease recognition and control.

  2. Understand diagnostic approaches for suspected infectious diseases by non-racing veterinarians and identify whether specific clinical signs or patterns of signs associated with prioritised exotic diseases are considered as differentials.

  3. Conduct a risk assessment of likely routes of transmission into the UK, identifying which diseases require consideration for risk-based educational and training materials to improve knowledge and adoption of biosecurity principles within the non-racing sector.

  4. Identify how many degrees of separation there are between non-racing horses and horses that are moving internationally and are therefore potential vectors for equine exotic disease outbreaks in the UK.

The project will develop targeted tools to educate non-racing horse owners, through the platforms they are currently utilising (e.g. web based tools through influential groups), based on identified knowledge gaps and preferred sources of information; develop CPD tools to enhance the speed of veterinary diagnosis of exotic disease; and develop a risk assessment of exotic diseases and pathways of entry to the UK.

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