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Call for unified and cohesive response

by
01 August 2009, at 12:00am

Vetinary Practice reports on an international forum called to discuss equine diseases

INCREASED global collaboration measures, including the harmonisation of diagnostic tools, better planning for disease outbreaks and the creation of an international equine disease prevention guidelines group, were some of the recommendations made at a gathering of leading academics, equine vets from 22 countries and members of the equine industry at a seminar held in Padova, Italy, in June. 

The event, Protecting against equine diseases in a changing international environment, was the first forum to bring together such a wide cross-section of the global equine industry and was hosted by Fort Dodge Animal Health. 

It was held at a time when leading members of the equine industry believe it to be under unprecedented threat, both from established diseases including equine influenza and strangles and from re-emerging and potentially devastating diseases such as African Horse Sickness and West Nile Virus infection. 

It also coincided with the announcement that the first vaccine against West Nile Virus infection, an inactivated whole virus vaccine, is now available in Europe from Fort Dodge. 

During the twoday event in the historic setting of Padova University, delegates listened to world-renowned experts, including Professor Peter Timoney from the University of Kentucky, Professor Alan Guthrie from the University of Pretoria and Professor Ann Cullinane from the Irish Equine Centre, outline the latest status on the diagnosis and prevention of seven of the most important diseases affecting horses: equine influenza, strangles, equine viral arteritis, equine herpes virus infections, equine infectious anaemia, African Horse Sickness and West Nile Virus infection. 

Sharing experience 

Dr Gideon Brückner from the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and Dr Andrew Waller from the Animal Health Trust also led sessions, and Emeritus Professor Marian C. Horzinek from Utrecht University chaired the event. 

Delegates also participated in workshops on each of the seven diseases, sharing experience and best practice on issues such as preventive measures, outbreak control, optimum diagnostic approaches and global standard setting. 

International fragmentation within the equine health sector was noted by several speakers as a particular obstacle to improving disease control and led to calls for a more unified and cohesive response from academia, the industry and national governments.

On a similar note, the need for increased investment in poorer countries from which many of the new disease threats are emerging was also agreed to be a priority – together with “fairer trade” in terms of the regulation of global horse movement. Delegates commented that variations in national legislation regarding horse transportation often had a proportionately greater effect on poorer countries yet had no scientific basis. 

“There’s a strong need both to harmonise existing guidelines for the management of infectious diseases and to develop new ones,” explained Professor Horzinek. “Egos can get in the way and what we really need is for organisations such as the OIE and WHO to come together to develop a compact and coherent body of evidence-based recommendations for disease control and horse movement. This conference is an excellent first step.” 

Delegates called on the industry to work more closely with the standards bodies to ensure greater harmonisation of disease control both at an EU and a global level. They also endorsed Professor Horzinek’s recommendation that a new equine disease prevention guidelines group, involving scientists, standards bodies and representatives from across the industry, be created. 

Commenting on the seminar, Helen Barnes, equine business manager for Fort Dodge EMEA, said: “This forum was unique in terms of the breadth of countries and representatives from the equine sector participating. The constructive and collaborative approach taken by delegates was inspirational and confirmed the real determination of those in the equine industry to ensure it overcomes the undoubted challenges it faces from existing and emerging diseases. 

“Feedback we’ve received indicates that delegates found it an enjoyable and positive experience and that they particularly benefited from sharing experiences with colleagues from around the world.”