CSU vet student creates website to help fight emerging infectious disease threats
A sometimes deadly equine herpes virus surging in horses around the world has horse owners and stable managers fearing widespread infection when horses mingle during show season. Luckily, a Colorado State University veterinary student has created a mobile-friendly website with biosecurity resources to limit infectious disease risks in equine facilities.
For Caroline Wollman, a third-year student in CSU’s Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program, the threat of equine herpes virus type 1 became personal when her own horse Cody became lame with symptoms in the spring of 2021.
Cody was at a boarding school in Colorado where other horses tested positive for the virus, which can lead to a life-threatening neurological condition called “equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy.” His horse was quarantined for a month, but because symptoms were caught early, Cody recovered after about six months of intense rehabilitation.
STARTS WITH AN INTERNSHIP
Wollman had previously begun working on horse biosecurity resources during a CSU summer extension internship with Angela Pelzel-McCluskey, the national epidemiologist for equine diseases at the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. from the USDA.
“The frequency of equine movement in and out of boarding operations presents a significant ongoing risk of disease introduction and potential spread to these facilities,” Pelzel-McCluskey said of the need for biosecurity resources like Wollman’s. “It is therefore extremely important that boarding schools have strong biosecurity plans in place, not only to reduce the risk of disease incursion, but also to quickly identify and respond appropriately to infectious diseases should they arise.
Wollman’s internship at Pelzel-McCluskey began right after the pandemic hit, so it ended up being virtual.
“It was a time when many students, many people in general, were cowering and unable to do much, and she has created a product that will benefit both her profession and her passion, helping horses. said Ragan Adams, Wollman Advisor and CSU Veterinary Extension Specialist and disaster preparedness and recovery expert.
“I was so impressed that she pitched the idea during her summer internship, but she had the courage to continue working on it through her second and third years of vet school,” Adams said.
The CVMBS website created by Wollman provides advice for horse owners looking for safe boarding stables — or signs that the one they use is biosecure. It also contains tips for farm managers who want to make their facilities safer.
In addition to a biosecurity checklist, there are tips related to arriving/leaving a farm, quarantine procedures, day-to-day management, barn design, cleaning/ disinfection and general health of horses.
“It fills a gap in the biosecurity niche of the horse world,” Wollman said. “There were a lot of resources there, but none seemed completely complete or acceptable. For the horse owner or stable manager, many of them were targeted at what vets would tell clients. So our goal was to make this very readable, very understandable and usable on the farm.
She said the fact that the site is mobile-friendly makes it easier to use during inspections.
“If we walk around a farm, we want to be able to look at our phone, look up and see what we can change to make it a more biosecure place,” Wollman said, adding that Adams was integral to the success of the project.
Visit Wollman’s website at animalbiosecurity.colostate.edu.