By the time an outbreak of infectious illness in domestic animals is suspected and surveillance gets underway, the pathogen often is spreading ahead of the experts.
A new interactive online map created by two veterinarians could change that.
The Worms & Germs Map, created by Drs. J. Scott Weese and Maureen Anderson, is an Internet-based program designed to track the spread of infectious diseases in dogs, cats and horses, as the diseases unfold.
Launched last month, the site is funded through Weese’s Canada Research Chair in zoonotic diseases. Weese is a professor in the pathobiology department at the University of Guelph in Ontario. Anderson works at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food.
The project aims to collect and synthesize information that in isolation may not be recognized as important, but in aggregate may give early clues of a brewing problem.
Weese explained that an outbreak of a new disease or one not previously recognized in a region may first present as a series of oddball clinical cases. “Often, a vet will see a cluster of cases with strange findings. Most of the time, that information goes nowhere,” he said.
“However, with centralized data reported, it’s possible to detect early trends or outbreaks if a few different vets from the same area identify the same problem, even if they don’t communicate with each other,” he continued. “They can input those into the map, and it may provide the impetus for active surveillance.”