New ‘vital’ strangles tool available to owners and vets

  • Owners and vets will have access to a “vital tool” on the most up-to-date strangles diagnoses in the UK thanks to a new online resource.

    The Animal Health Trust (AHT) created the website, which aims to provide information at the “click of a button”, as part of its surveillance of equine strangles project, launched in April 2019 in collaboration with the Royal Veterinary College and the universities of Liverpool and Melbourne, with funding from the Horse Trust.

    A spokesman for the AHT said the website is a “huge step forward” in sharing information about the disease.

    “It will quickly become a vital tool for people owning and working with horses, especially those travelling around the country to areas that have seen higher rates of diagnoses of strangles,“ he said.

    “Strangles, as one of the most commonly diagnosed infectious diseases of horses worldwide with more than 600 outbreaks in the UK each year, causes immense welfare problems for horses and significant economic costs to their owners.”

    The website includes a mapping function, highlighting regions where cases have been confirmed, and allows users to view information relevant to their location.

    “Information based on the geography of vet practices making diagnoses, the demographics of horses being confirmed with infection, the ways diagnoses are made and the types of samples being submitted for lab testing, is also included,” said the spokesman.

    “Users can look at the time course of diagnoses over longer periods to highlight seasonal trends, and view the most important associated clinical signs and the combinations of these, as reported on submission forms sent with samples to diagnostic laboratories.”

    AHT director of disease surveillance and epidemiology Richard Newton said the website provides “comprehensive insights” about the disease that have never been available before.

    “However, the resource is only as useful as the data supplied from vets on the ground. I would urge colleagues to help us to keep this resource as up-to-date and comprehensive as possible by completing full details on submission forms being sent to any laboratory, so this information can contribute – anonymously – to the national picture of strangles,” he said.

    AHT PhD student Abbi McGlennon, who led the development of the website, said: “Our aim with the surveillance of equine strangles scheme is to reduce the spread of the disease. This website is one of the first key tools to emerge from the larger surveillance project.

    “It joins the dots across the equine industry by collating information from laboratory-confirmed strangles diagnoses and communicating this back in almost real time. I’m excited about the prospect of extending this internationally, and the difference that could make for horses globally. We are extremely grateful to the Horse Trust for funding the wider project, and to SEIB insurance brokers for supporting the website.”

    Horse Trust CEO Jeanette Allen said the charity is delighted to be funding the work.

    “We support a number of crucial horse health projects throughout the UK and with worldwide collaboration. Strangles is a disease which is very worrying to owners. With accurate information about where outbreaks are and proper information about what owners can do to help reduce the spread of strangles and other diseases, we hope to be able to significantly improve horse wellbeing,” she said.

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