Second Phase of USDA's Equine 2015 Study Delayed by Bird Flu Outbreak

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The US Department of Agriculture's "Equine 2015 Study" that began in May will be delayed by the outbreak of HPAI, "bird flu," which has been described as the largest animal-health emergency ever faced by USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) announced the launch of the 2015 study some time ago. Phase I of the two-part study will be completed.

This equine study is designed to provide participants, the horse industry and animal health officials with information on the nation's equine population that will serve as a basis for education, service, and research related to equine health and management. The study will also provide the horse industry with new and valuable information regarding trends in the industry for 1998, 2005 and 2015.

The Center for Epidemiology and Animal Health (CEAH) with USDA-APHIS just announced the postponement of Phase II of the study. Although Phase II will be delayed, Phase I which has begun, will continue as scheduled. Phase I involves a simple questionnaire collected by NASS representatives during face to face interview that began in May and will be completed by end of July, 2015. That data will be validated and analyzed at NAHMS.

In announcing the delay of Phase II, CEAH noted that, "While the equine industry is an integral element of the overall APHIS mission, there are times in which animal-health emergencies take precedent over all other activities, including our national studies."

The delay is caused by the reassignment of the USDA staff required to initiate Phase II of the study to respond to the HPAI "bird flu" outbreak. These USDA personnel are now actively involved in the Department's highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak response. USDA has committed hundreds of staff to deal with the outbreak and hired thousands of contractors to supplement them. To date over 50 million birds have been depopulated.

Phase II of the equine study is now scheduled to begin in Spring/Summer of 2016, assuming emergency-response obligations change and personnel are again available. CEAH is also examining the feasibility of implementing the parasite portion of Phase II, which does not require field personnel or facility visits, on schedule.

USDA will release specific information to active participants in Phase I directly and will share information on the beginning of Phase II of the equine study as it becomes available.