In human medicine much is made of where disease outbreaks occur and how many people are affected. In veterinary medicine the situation is more difficult, often getting a full diagnosis is not necessary as we can treat on a presumptive basis and laboratory tests have to be paid for so are not always done. There is no requirement for vets to officially report diseases uless they are classifed as ‘notifiable’. Rabies is the most well known of the notifiable diseases in small animals but there are others.
The lack of reporting can make it difficult for us to reccomend preventative measures such as preventative treatments, vaccination etc. There are some projects run at universities to record disease incidence and there is an ongoing push to produce a set of universal computer codes which would allow the information to be uniformly sucked out of practice computers. There is at present nowhere for this data to ‘go’ and because vets and our software providers are mostly private enterprises, it will take some doing to make it all work. The growth of larger corporate veterinary practices means these companies do have access to this sort of data from their own clinics but there is no compulsion for them to share it
There is also a voluntary scheme run by Schering Plough / Intervet where vets in private practice record data on a centralised computer which can then be used to produce incidence maps such as the one illustrated for parvovirus in the North West of England. This ‘CICADA’ (Computer based Investigation of Animal Disease Awareness) system lets vets differentiate between diseases confirmed by laboratory test and those that we have a presumptive diagnosis for.