The American Horse Council is seeking public funding to launch the Equine Disease Communication Center, the newly established cornerstone of the National Equine Health Plan. The call center, based out of the U.S. Equestrian Federation offices in Kentucky, will serve as a network for the public to report and learn of outbreaks of equine diseases across the country.
The idea for a nationwide disease alert system for state veterinarians came in 2010 when the Center For Disease Control stressed to the AHC the importance of true and accurate information in times of outbreak. But it wasn’t until the next year, when 425 horses across 19 states were exposed to the virulent strain of equine herpes EHV-1, that the council leapt into action.
“When the outbreak began in Utah, we realized that as an industry we really need something that will help us to educate the public, but also to be able to stop the rumors and keep everyone informed of the truth behind outbreaks,” said Nathanial White, DVM, professor emeritus of equine surgery at Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center (Va.), and chair of the AHC task force to establish the EDCC.
“There were rampant rumors that occurred during that outbreak and there was no set-up to communicate to other states,” he continued. “There was no mechanism for state veterinarians in, say, Colorado to get all the information they needed to tell their constituents and those in other states.”
Led by the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the EDCC will provide accurate, timely updates about current disease outbreaks through its website, social media outlets and email blasts. It also offers educational articles on different equine diseases, contact information for state equine medical authorities, and more. State veterinarians, as well as horse owners and local veterinarians, can report an outbreak through the EDCC call center or website, and the EDCC will then investigate and report its findings.
“When we get a rumor or an outbreak, we’re hoping one of two things happen: the state veterinarian calls and says, ‘Here’s what information we have, post it and spread the word,’ or, alternatively, if somebody calls in with a suspicious case, the veterinarian consultant at the EDCC would call the state veterinarian in that location and confirm and record true information, not rumor,” said White.
“This is one of the core features of the National Equine Health Plan, and it’ll be a resource for horse owners and veterinarians, with an alert system, information about diseases, biosecurity, vaccinations, how to get a hold of your state veterinarian and how to get a hold of the USDA, all in one place,” White continued.
In its final stages of development, the EDCC is working to raise funds of $100,000 per year to cover expenses and hire a communications specialist and administrator to make the program operational. Donations go through the AAEP Foundation and are tax deductable.
If interested, please go to www.aaepfoundation.org, or make your donations out to:
C/O Equine Disease Communication Center
4075 Iron Works Parkway
Lexington, KY 40511