Researchers Show How Equine Diseases Can Spread Without Nose-To-Nose Contact

by | 03.11.2019 | 1:24pm

When a equine disease outbreak happens, the first order of business is to limit the spread — which can be challenging, since there's a lot we still don't know about how certain viruses and bacteria find their hosts.

Scientists at the University of Guelph created two studies that may help predict how diseases spread among equine populations. The first study used small radio frequency identification (RFID) tags that were attached to horse's halters. These tags allowed researchers to collect data on which horses came into contact with other horses on their home farm. The second study used the RFID data to create and compare contact networks at equine facilities in Ontario.

Contact networks are used by scientists to help understand how diseases spread in a population. Each horse that comes into contact with another one is recorded, similar to “connect the dots”; the ensuing picture is then analyzed.

The study, led by Dr. Rachael Milwid, noted that while it was to be expected that horses turned out together had the most contact with one another, the research also showed that horses not turned out together and not stalled next to one another still had significant contact with one another throughout the day from their contact networks. These finding imply that during a disease outbreak, extra caution should be used to keep affected horses separate from those who are not affected by disease to keep the disease from spreading.

To learn more about how the researchers used the RFID tags and other results from the studies, read the articles Validation of modified radio-frequency identification tag firmware and Comparison of the dynamic networks of four equine boarding and training facilities.

Read more at Equine Guelph.

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