The current Equine Herpesvirus (EHV-1) outbreaks have been scary for many of us, especially as they come hot on the heels of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It can be hard to find a silver lining in times like these but here is one to consider: the EHV-1 outbreaks have allowed Equestrian Canada (EC) to identify gaps in disease surveillance and make sure we have plans to address those gaps should similar situations arise in the future.

One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced with the current EHV-1 outbreaks – and that we also dealt with when COVID-19 first hit a year ago – is that it’s currently impossible to identify which Canadian horses and their people are out of the county at any given time. That makes it difficult to relay important information in a crisis abroad to the people that need it, such as updates on border closures and how that relates to getting your horse back home to Canada.

A solution currently in development to address these issues is the Canadian Equine Identification Program (CEIP). The CEIP is an industry-led initiative to develop an equine identification system that will lead to a full-scale traceability system. You can learn more about it in-depth here.

How would a traceability system help in the case of a disease outbreak? For starters, we’d know what horses were located in the affected area, which would enable us to directly contact the person responsible with relevant information and support. Furthermore, if there was a confirmed case of an infectious disease at a competition or facility, automatic trace-back and trace-out exercises could be conducted. In-depth and digital contact tracing would allow for real-time impact mapping and quick, targeted communications.

A key desired outcome of the CEIP is a centralized place to house verified health records such as vaccination records. Currently ongoing verification of health records against competition biosecurity prerequisites can be very challenging; a digital, user-friendly platform would ensure high health standards are met and maintained without excess administrative burden on organizers and competitors.

Collecting all this data would help the equine industry in Canada improve on-going infectious disease surveillance and further research and program development to help ensure we avoid situations like EHV-1 outbreaks in the future.

While disease outbreaks are something that we all wish to avoid, we are lucky to live in the age of advanced technology. EC is going to use that technology to protect our horses in the best way possible.


Kristy Laroche
Director, Active Equine Industry and Development

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