Over the past few years, at various meetings and workshops involving the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the European Union (EU), the Federation Equestrian Internationale (FEI), as well as local government, it has become increasingly evident that a major stumbling block to the control of African horse sickness (as well as other equine diseases), and thus to the potential of exporting horses, is the lack of suitable and accessible surveillance and horse data. Currently there are several databases which don’t ‘talk to each other’ and which do not meet international standards. The overriding advice of international experts is that South Africa needs a central database of all horse data.
The EU report of 2013 highlighted this as a problem, as did Prof Evan Sergeant of AusVet in his Surveillance Report following a visit to South Africa in October 2013. The matter was raised again at the Horse Export Workshop in April 2014, following which DAFF representatives met with the Equine Industry representatives to discuss the development of a central database that supports movement control and disease reporting. A Central Database sub-committee was subsequently established, and is actively looking into possible solutions for a central database. Without accurate and available data, there is a critical missing link that will cause all the hard work of research, surveillance and movement control to be nullified.
These are just a few of the recommendations, which relate to the maintenance of data, made by Prof Evan Sergeant in the AusVet Report:
Review movement control system and documentation
A review of the process and requirements for horse movements into and within the area, including approval process and documentation/records is now appropriate to ensure a comprehensive, functional and auditable system is in place before submitting a Free Zone application.
Review horse identification and census systems
Current systems for collecting and collating census information are labour intensive and incomplete and horse identification is incomplete and relies on multiple systems. Again, a review should consider the opportunities provided by recommendations for a shift to an integrated information management system, a critical element of which would be a unique horse identification system.
Review information management and develop an integrated information management system
A critical component of maintaining a Free Zone and satisfying OIE and trading partners of its integrity is accurate, accessible and auditable data on all relevant aspects of the program. Currently a variety of systems are in place and are not well integrated, so that a review of information requirements and development of an integrated system to manage data is required. As part of this process it should be possible to take advantage of new technologies to simplify and streamline data collection and reporting.
Similarly, the EU report of their inspection in May 2013 following the mandatory ban on exports for 2 years after the Mamre AHS outbreak in 2011, included the following in their findings :
- Insufficient surveillance data was available for the Western Cape Free-Zone and Surveillance Zone to prove absence of AHSV after an outbreak and to comply with routine surveillance requirements for AHS and Dourine. Vector surveillance inside and outside the quarantine facility should support vector protection.
- There was inadequate control of movements with auditable documentary proof and inadequate legal powers to control movements.
A high priority development is a single identification system for horses in South Africa, linked movement control, disease surveillance and reporting. One of the major problems highlighted during preparation for the OIE submission and during the EU visit was the need for an integrated database to facilitate easy input of data that will co-ordinate all data sources and can be used to monitor progress and generate reports required by trading partners.
For export and an Olympic bid the surveillance data is critical.
At a meeting attended by Prof Alan Guthrie in February 2014, together with the OIE and FEI, the matter of South Africa’s intention to bid for the 2024 Olympics was discussed, with the following being a few of the concerns raised :
- Identification of horses should be internationally acceptable;
- Movement protocol;
- Importance of central database, which will prevent alterations post veterinarian signature;
- Legal framework to cover all horses and forms of identification;
All relevant stakeholders will be involved
The implementation of a central database will be undertaken in consultation with the DAFF, Western Cape Veterinary Services, the Animal Health Forum, and Government Communications and Information Systems. It is envisaged that, once a system is identified (this is a high priority for the Equine Health Fund), the first phase of the roll-out will be in the Western Cape, and will then move out to the rest of the provinces.