USDA Releases U.S. Animal Health Report

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently released its second annual U.S. Animal Health Report, which is a national overview of animal health, population demographics and foreign animal disease surveillance. The report is intended as a thorough source of information on the status of U.S. livestock, poultry and aquaculture as well as programs and strategies used to ensure their continued health.The report based demographic statistics on the equine community on the USDA’s 2002 Census of Agriculture, which showed 3.64 million horses and ponies from 542,223 farms.The National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS), the Veterinary Services initiative, is active in domestic and foreign animal disease surveillance. For equine domestic diseases, monitoring is performed for such diseases as equine influenza, equine infectious anemia and equine encephalomyelitis, among others. The system also keeps track of foreign diseases not present in the United States that affect equines including glanders, Japanese encephalitis, African horse sickness and others. NAHMS is also charged with following emerging diseases–newly identified pathogens. Two recent examples of serious livestock diseases that can affect horses and are emerging diseases are Nipah virus in Malaysia and Hendra virus in Australia.The NAHMS Equine 2005 Study collected health information from 2,893 equine operations in the U.S. It logged mortality rates and causes, vaccination practices and movement of equines. The study found that in the year before study interviews, 4.9 percent of the foals born alive died within the first 30 days. The major cause of foal death was injury, followed by inability to nurse or get colostrums.NAHMS also found that 75.9 percent of equine operations noted that they had given at least some kind of vaccine to its equines in the year prior to the interview. The study found that 36.6 percent of operations did not move their equines off the facility and back onto it in the previous year.USDA also noted significant animal-health events in 2005, which included outbreaks of vesicular stomatitis virus, anthrax and equine herpesvirus type 1 (EHV-1) among horses. In 2005 and early 2006, seven outbreaks of EHV-1 occurred in the U.S. in racing facilities in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Michigan as well as two boarding stables in Maryland and New York. Recently, an outbreak at Monmouth Park, N.J., led to a quarantine imposed on 1,000 horses there on October 26.According to the USDA, objectives of the National Animal Health Surveillance System is to enhance “domestic and global surveillance to identify elevated risks” and encourage “the development and application of new technologies for early and rapid disease detection.”