Another month, another outbreak, another quarantine. But has anything changed to make future outbreaks less likely?
Last week, the Ohio Department of agriculture lifted a quarantine of Beulah Park after an equine herpesvirus (EHV) outbreak was contained. Since 30 days had elapsed since the last sick horse was identified, it was determined that disease transmission was no longer ongoing (a routine guideline, although herpesvirus lays dormant in a large percentage of healthy horses). The outbreak ultimately resulted in the deaths of 3 horses, plus a lot of angst, hassle and presumably financial loss to people at the facility.
While it’s good to see that the outbreak was contained, and while we know that absolute prevention of every outbreak is impossible, something that too often does not occur following outbreaks is a post-outbreak review to determine what went wrong, how it can be prevented in the future and how things can be managed better next time.
I don’t think I’ve ever been involved with or heard of an outbreak where, at the end of it, you can honestly say “that was completely non-preventable and we did everything absolutely perfectly.” Unless you can say that, a post-outbreak review is in order.
One major problem with infectious disease control in the horse industry is the tendency to be reactive, not proactive. Once an outbreak is underway, aggressive measures may be implemented and most people (hopefully) make a concerted effort to get things under control. However, memory tends to be very short-term, and people quickly revert back to their baseline (and often suboptimal) practices once the outbreak is over. It’s unfortunate that it is so uncommon for people to review the circumstances of an outbreak and make substantial, long-lasting changes to reduce the risk of problems in the future.
- Every farm needs an infection control plan, regardless of its size. It doesn’t have to be cumbersome or complex, but in general, the bigger the farm and the more horse movement, the more detailed it needs to be.
- Outbreak response needs to be part of the plan, to make sure that things get done properly and quickly in the event of a problem.
- While outbreak response is important, the baseline level of “routine” infectious diseases (i.e. the endemic rate of disease) is actually even more important, so emphasis needs to be placed on baseline infection control practices.
- Whenever something goes wrong, a careful review needs to be performed to figure out what happened and how to prevent it in the future. Most importantly, any plans that are made need to be implemented and maintained over time.