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Purdue project could help pets serve as disease watchdogs

A national surveillance network that uses the medical records of companion animals could help prepare for a wide variety of emerging disease threats to humans and animals, including avian influenza, according to veterinary scientists at Purdue University's School of Veterinary Medicine.

The National Companion Animal Surveillance Program was originally designed to alert people to potential anthrax or plague outbreaks. New findings on tests of the program are detailed in the current edition of Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases, a medical journal that focuses on diseases transmitted to humans by vectors such as mosquitoes or directly from animals.

Larry Glickman, a professor of epidemiology in the School of Veterinary Medicine, designed the National Companion Animal Surveillance Program in collaboration with Banfield, The Pet Hospital, a nationwide chain of veterinary hospitals. Between 2002 and 2004, tests were conducted on more than 10 million pet records to determine how the database could be used to monitor disease outbreaks.

"We discovered we can use analytical techniques to target specific geographic areas where vaccines need to be developed," Glickman said. "This early warning will become critical to stop the spread of avian flu virus and other diseases that might affect humans. The quicker we can identify the problem in the more than 150 million dogs, cats or pet birds that live in approximately 40 percent of all households in the United States, the greater the probability we can contain a disease before it spreads to humans."

Authors of the research paper were Glickman; George E. Moore, Nita W. Glickman and Richard J. Caldanaro of Purdue's School of Veterinary Medicine; David Aucoin of VCA Antech; and Hugh B. Lewis of Banfield, The Pet Hospital.

Researchers collected data from 80,000 companion animals treated weekly at more than 500 Banfield hospitals in 44 states. Additional data included reports from VCA Antech Diagno
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Contact: Maggie Morris
maggiemorris@purdue.edu
765-494-2432
Purdue University
24-Mar-2006


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