Equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy (EHM) put dozens of show horses at risk for infection after they were exposed to a sick horse at a single competitive event in Utah in 2011. Unaware of the exposures, owners of these horses dispersed the show animals to 19 states and several Canadian provinces, unleashing the potential to infect others in epidemic proportions. But prompt recognition and rapid response of regulatory, state, and veterinary agencies curbed the impact of an outbreak which killed at least 13 horses and could have proved far more deadly for the North American horse population.
This situation and others like it spurred the American Horse Council and USDA to create a National Equine Health Plan (NEHP), designed to aid authorities in equine disease surveillance and to make recommendations about implementing biosecurity measures. One of the critical parts of the NEHP to help control and limit an epidemic is provision for excellent communication strategies, which includes a national resource for disease information. During the "current controversies" session at the 2013 American Association of Equine Practitioners’ (AAEP) Convention, held Dec. 7-11 in Nashville, Tenn., Nat White, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, of the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center at Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, reported on the progress of putting this plan into action.
White said the NEHP’s objective is to establish a horse-industry sponsored equine disease communication center (EDCC). The plan includes a decision tree that facilitates communications about infectious diseases between federal and state officials and all segments of the equine industry.