DOAG: STAYING AHEAD OF ANIMAL DISEASE: LOOK, REPORT & PROTECT



November 28, 2018

STAYING AHEAD OF ANIMAL DISEASE: LOOK, REPORT & PROTECT

Dr. Mary Jane Lis, State Veterinarian, Bureau of Regulatory Services

If you own animals or birds of any kind, you are an essential partner in early animal disease discovery, reporting, and disease control. 

Your daily observations during feeding and caring of your animals provide you with a baseline of information about what is “normal” for your farm or operation. 

If you add a system of good written records to keep the information handy and accurate, there is the added bonus of having a reference point on how well the animals are performing and a measure of how well you are doing financially each year.

Written records provide factual information that can be used to compare events over time.  In breeding herds or flocks, genetic selection is documented from generation to generation. Actual improvement is detailed (i.e., weight gain, feed efficiency, egg production, etc.) and not just a perceived notion relying on someone’s memory. 

Records can be as simple as a calendar with notes jotted down each day or as advanced as an electronic computer system, scanning and recording animal identification and performance data automatically. 

When a disease event occurs, good records provide essential information needed to complete an investigative history for you, your veterinarian, the diagnostic laboratory personnel, and the State Veterinarian. 

A detailed history about the source of the animals; vaccinations used; nutrition supplied; and the on- and-off-property movement of animals, humans, and equipment; etc.; can supply clues about the disease or problem that is occurring, which narrows the possibilities, costs, and time for diagnosis and development of a treatment plan.

Recognizing there is a problem is the first step.  The next step is knowing who to call for help.

Having a local veterinarian familiar with your herd or flock is a great asset, especially if a relationship is developed before an emergency.  The veterinarian will have more time to be familiar with you and your animals during a routine visit than in the middle of a crisis. 

If you have a veterinarian listed when dead animals are submitted to the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory, the information is shared with the veterinarian and he or she can assist you with dealing with the problem.

If you participated in the Connecticut Department of Agriculture (DoAg)’s Salmonella pullorum/typhoid serological surveillance testing program, the subsidized Avian Influenza surveillance testing program, or the subsidized diagnostic necropsy services, you can request those reports be shared and discussed with your attending veterinarian.

Veterinarians play an important role in animal disease surveillance and in reporting reportable diseases and high mortality and morbidity events.  With each appointment and farm visit, veterinarians deal with the challenge of diagnosing and treating a disease or condition affecting the health and well-being of an animal or group of animals along with dealing with their owner’s emotional and/or financial well-being.

No matter what the species, large or small, disease is the common threat to all. 

A “new” or foreign disease can devastate the individual, kennel, herd, or population.  We are fortunate in Connecticut to be free of a number of economically important, and public health significant, animal diseases (i.e., Tuberculosis, Brucellosis, and Avian Influenza) that burden other states and countries. 

The control and eradication of these diseases was not easy or inexpensive.  It required funds, diligence, time, and cooperation by all parties to be successful. 

Active and passive surveillance for disease involves owners, veterinarians, state and federal animal health officials, and diagnostic laboratories. Surveillance ensures freedom from eradicated diseases, early detection of new emerging diseases, and the resurgence of endemic diseases. 

Section 22-26f(e) of the Connecticut General Statutes provides the State Veterinarian the authority to issue a list of reportable animal and avian diseases and reportable laboratory findings to veterinarians licensed in the state and to diagnostic laboratories that conduct tests on Connecticut animals and birds. 

The Reportable Disease Record form and the list of Connecticut Reportable Diseases, which is a composite of state, federal, and international reportable disease lists, is available at www.ct.gov/doag/cwp/view.asp?a=1367&q=259102.

Many of the diseases listed are foreign or exotic to the U.S.—others are not.  The U.S. is a member of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and is required to report outbreaks and the presence of each disease listed.

For more information on the U.S. status for each reportable disease go to https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/monitoring-and-surveillance/sa_nahss/status-reportable-disease-us.

Veterinarians should contact the State Veterinarian immediately at 860-713-2505 to report any instances of high morbidity, mortality, or vesicular-type diseases and any recognition or suspicion of a vesicular-type disease, or zoonotic diseases (i.e., Anthrax, Botulism, Brucellosis, Plague, Q Fever, Tularemia, Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis, and Viral Hemorrhagic Fever), which could be possible indicators of bioterrorism.

The attending veterinarian is responsible for notifying the State Veterinarian and providing information about the clinical case in a timely matter.  Depending on the circumstances, the State Veterinarian may contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Assistant District Director (AD) for New England to assign a federal Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostician to investigate and to collect additional samples.

Suspicious disease conditions that veterinarians should also quickly report to the State Veterinarian or AD are mucosal diseases, hemorrhagic septicemia, “abortion storms” of unknown etiology, central nervous system or undiagnosed encephalitic conditions, unusual numbers of acute deaths, severe respiratory conditions, pox or lumpy skin conditions, and unusual myiasis or acariasis (exotic flies, mites, ticks, etc.). 

Practicing good biosecurity is the best protection for your animals to keep diseases out. If you have a disease outbreak occur, practicing good biosecurity is also the best way to prevent the disease from leaving your property in order to protect others with susceptible animals. 

A number of articles and publications have been written about biosecurity and programs developed with biosecurity as the foundation for best management practices to keep animals healthy using commonsense practices to reduce the likelihood of introducing diseases into the animal environment.  

For several years USDA’s APHIS has promoted the Biosecurity for Birds program with the popular annual calendar and publications on Avian Influenza and Virulent Newcastle disease.  These materials will be phased out this year and the new initiative called “Defend the Flock” will replace it.  Information on this new USDA campaign can be found at www.aphis.usda.gov/animalhealth/defendtheflock.

A free live webinar is scheduled for Wednesday, November 28, 2018 at 2:30-3:30 p.m. to showcase the new campaign and the latest resources. If you are unable to attend, the webinar will be recorded and available for latter playback.