New online tools help calculate risk and control infection

Horse owners will be able to determine the risk of animals catching an infectious disease and gather information about infection control thanks to two new online initiatives from the University of Guelph.

The first is an online calcu­lator that allows horse owners to punch in management prac­tices and learn ani­mals’ risk levels. The second is a blog by Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) re­searchers that pro­vides infor­ma­tion about various equine infectious diseases, along with practical tips on disease pre­ven­tion and control.

The biosecurity risk calcu­lator was launched recently at the Ontario Equestrian Fed­eration Conference. Developed by Equine Guelph in part­ner­ship with Vétoquinol Canada, the online tool measures both risk and prevention.

"The calculator gives horse owners a good starting point by showing the potential risks currently present on their farm and the most practical ways to decrease that risk," said Gayle Ecker, senior manager of Equine Guelph. Having a bio­security protocol is important to reduce the risk of spread­ing infectious disease on any horse farm, added Caroline Des­forges, biosecurity and equine product manager with Véto­quinol Canada.

The calculator will be avail­able through the Equine Guelph website. Equine Guelph is support­ed by industry groups, and is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of horses and helps connect the industry with expertise at OVC.

"Equiblog" aims to provide information and insight about equine in­fectious diseases to horse own­ers and veterinarians. The site is co-ordinated by Professor Scott Weese and Maureen Anderson of OVC’s department of pathobiology. They are spe­ci­alists in large-animal internal medicine with expertise in infectious diseases and infec­tion control.

Infectious diseases are pre­valent in equine medicine, Weese said. "The average horse owner commonly encounters infectious disease questions and problems, ranging from decisions about vaccination and deworming to serious ill­nesses in their horses," he said.

"We wanted to design a website where we could pro­vide balanced and unbiased in­formation in various forms, ranging from short updates about current issues to detailed information sheets about dis­eases or descriptions of infec­tion control protocols."

Weese and Anderson create blog posts every few days about timely topics related to infectious disease topics, in­cluding items in the News, outbreaks that are occurring internationally and general com­mentary about infectious diseases and infection control.

Recent posts have included diverse topics ranging from vaccination and deworming to equine herpesvirus in the United States to the use of honey for treating infections. All the information is written and reviewed by experts in the field.

Last spring, Weese and An­derson started a similar blog, Worms and Germs, to educate people about zoonotic diseases – those that can be transmitted between animals and humans – as well as to provide general information about topics re­lat­ed to animal health and pet care.