Google-mapping infectious diseases

When making educated decisions on the need for vaccination, pet owners are often keen to hear of disease occurrence. Traditionally, without centralised monitoring of diseases, like those recorded with us humans, vets have only responded in terms of their local animal catchment.  We may have diagnosed a cat with Herpes, or heard of a case of canine Parvovirus at a neighbouring clinic, but the national picture wasn’t so easy to describe.  Bring Google and Big Pharma to the table, and things are starting to change.

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Copyright Disease WatchDog and Virbac 2010

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Virbac’s new Disease Watchdog allows vets to log on, report confirmed cases, and view outbreaks, mapped by location. Of course, there is some commercial self-interest here; Virbac and other pharmaceutical companies are always itching to remind vets and pet owners of the diseases which their vaccines prevent.  But if it means more information sharing, and better informed clinical decision-making, who cares.  Above is the breakdown by state, and disease.

The obvious and outstanding justification for keeping your dog’s vaccination up to date is Parvovirus. While many diseases  have been nearly eliminated by vaccination, the highly contagious nature of Parvovirus, and it’s ability to survive in the environment for up to 2 years, sees this commonly fatal disease persisting, often as local outbreaks. If dog owners were to start abandoning vaccination, as some parents have, Parvovirus, like Hooping Cough, would be one of the first diseases to aggressively make a comeback.

Canine Distemper Virus is another interesting one. I was taught about this disease using videos at Uni, as we never saw a real life case to learn from. In 15 years of practice I have only ever seen cases when working in Indonesia.  It’s one of those diseases that I would be feeling relaxed about skipping vaccination. And yet there it is, in small numbers, all around the country. Killing dogs who associate with foxes, the feral animal reservior, Distemper seems here to stay.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting religious annual vaccination for all. There is no doubt that the industry needs to rethink vaccination policies and frequencies, and vets need to better engage in individualised and balanced decision-making, considering patient factors; owner’s beliefs and attitudes to risk; and possibly serology. Gathering this field data on disease incidence is an important first step; next is accurate figures on vaccination reactions, both immediate and delayed. In both cases it will be dependent on the profession finding the time to report.

Residents of NSW may feel as if they’re letting the team down, seemingly overrepresented in the statistics. However, figures are only as good as the data inputted:  the higher number of cases in NSW may reflect a greater pet population, and/or a higher participation rate amongst vets in our state.

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Copyright Disease WatchDog and Virbac 2010

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There’s another disease we vaccinate against, that would easily beat Parvo, but isn’t recorded here. Kennel cough, caused by Parainfluenza virus and a bacteria, Bordatella Bronchioseptica, is far too common to map. Like the head cold in man, there would be so many pins on the map, it would be hard to see land. Fortunately, unlike Parvo, kennel cough is hardly ever fatal.

Below is a close up of cases in our local area. Before you start to relax into complacency, believing us to be blessed with good health, think again: a recent case of Parvovirus, in Pottsville, and another in Lismore, are absent from the database.

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Copyright Disease WatchDog and Virbac 2010

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Other posts on this topic

Vaccination Controversy in Man and Animal

Thumbnail Audit of Adverse Vaccination Events

Feline vaccination: What do feline specialists use on their own cats?

FIV and the vaccine: the Australian story

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3 Responses to “Google-mapping infectious diseases”

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