Outbreak Alert is a resource for equine disease prevention


Three horsesSupporting horse owners and veterinarians in their efforts to keep their horses healthy, animal health company Merial launched its “Outbreak Alert” program, which will be used to notify horse owners about reports of equine disease throughout the country, as well as build a greater awareness of those diseases and the importance of prevention.

Disease poses a significant threat to the health and well-being of horses. Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) has a mortality rate estimated to be as high as 90 percent.1,2 Every case of rabies presents a death sentence to the infected horse – and a risk of infection for other horses.3 Potomac horse fever (PHF) can lead to severe complications or death, which occur in up to 30 percent of infected horses.4,5 One out of three horses that gets sick from West Nile virus (WNV) dies or must be euthanized.6 While these statistics are alarming, horse owners can help minimize the risk of disease by being armed with information.

“The primary focus of the program is to help keep horse owners, like myself, informed about the threat of disease in the area where they live or where they may be traveling,” says Beckie Peskin, Product Manager, Equine Vaccines and Dewormers, Merial. “Owners want the best for their horses, and knowing where the threat of disease exists will help them take the appropriate preventive measures to help protect their horse – whether it is in their own barn or competing halfway across the country.”

Horse owners can sign up for free alerts via the program’s website, www.outbreak-alert.com. When a disease report occurs, those who have signed up for the notification and live within a 250-mile radius of where the report occurred will receive a text and/or e-mail message to alert them of the potential disease threat. Owners who travel with their horses and want to stay abreast of disease threats in other parts of the country can enter multiple ZIP codes in the site’s search field. They will then be able to receive alerts for all areas they have selected. Owners are also encouraged to share details of the Outbreak Alert program with other horse owners through e-mail, text, Twitter and Facebook.

“We want to spread the word about this program because we feel it is critical to give horse owners as much information as possible,” says Peskin. “Armed with information, horse owners can work with their veterinarian to make sound health care decisions based on the risk of disease and the potential for exposure.”

Through outbreak-alert.com, horse owners will also have access to consumer-focused information about equine diseases, their transmission, signs to look for and disease prevention, including the importance of vaccination.

“The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) recommends all horses in the United States be vaccinated against core diseases, including WNV, EEE, Western equine encephalitis (WEE), tetanus and rabies,”7 says Peskin. “And if you travel with your horse or there is a disease threat in your area, there are other non-core vaccines that may be needed to help protect your horse’s health, including those for equine influenza and PHF.7

“While there are many steps you can take to protect the well-being of your horse, vaccination should be a critical component of your equine health care program, and MERIAL® Brand Equine vaccines help prevent some of the most common and most serious equine diseases.”

Veterinarians are the best source for quality vaccines and vaccine information. A good rule of thumb is to communicate with your veterinarian at least twice a year – usually in the spring and fall – to identify the area’s disease threats, assess your horse’s level of risk and discuss potential travel plans – all of which will help enable you and your veterinarian to develop a vaccination program that specifically addresses the needs of your horse.


  1. Eastern/Western equine encephalomyelitis. American Association of Equine Practitioners. Available at: http://www.aaep.org/eee_wee.htm. Accessed August 3, 2009.
  2. Mosquito Borne Diseases: Eastern and Western Equine Encephalomyelitis and West Nile Virus – Prevention is Just a Vaccine Away. Department of Animal Science. University of Connecticut. Available at: http://animalscience.uconn.edu/extension/publications/mosquito.htm. Accessed February 28, 2011.
  3. Marteniuk J. Rabies in horses. Michigan State University, College of Veterinary Medicine. Available at: http://old.cvm.msu.edu/extension/equine/RabiesinHorses.pdf. Accessed June 11, 2009.
  4. Palmer JE. Potomac horse fever. University of Pennsylvania. Lecture notes and slides. 2008. Available at: http://nicuvet.com/nicuvet/lam/index.html. Accessed January 15, 2009.
  5. Merck Veterinary Manual. Ninth edition. 2005:236-237.
  6. Guidelines for the vaccination of horses: West Nile virus. American Association of Equine Practitioners. Available at: http://www.aaep.org/wnv.htm. Accessed March 1, 2011.
  7. Guidelines for Vaccination of Horses. American Association of Equine Practitioners. Available at: http://www.aaep.org/vaccination_guidelines.htm. Accessed July 12, 2010.



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