The U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service's (APHIS) National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) has been working on its "Equine 2015" study and was scheduled to begin Phase II of the study on Aug. 1.
However, APHIS is currently responding to an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), which is now the largest animal-health emergency ever faced by APHIS. Because of the magnitude of the emergency response to the HPAI outbreak, NAHMS must postpone Phase II of the Equine 2015 study until 2016.
APHIS explained that Phase II of the Equine 2015 study requires that APHIS have a full complement of veterinary medical officers and animal health technicians in the study’s 28 participating states. NAHMS staff availability is crucial to the coordination and reporting of the study's findings. These personnel are actively involved in the HPAI outbreak and are unable to participate in Phase II of the Equine 2015 study.
APHIS said it is optimistic that the HPAI outbreak will subside this summer; however, the agency is unsure what the cooler fall weather and wild bird migrations will bring. Currently, and in the near future, APHIS' top priority will likely be the HPAI outbreak.
APHIS plans to reinitiate Phase II of the study in the spring/summer of 2016, if emergency-response obligations change and personnel are available. The agency is also examining the feasibility of implementing the parasite portion of Phase II in August 2015 as it does not require field personnel or facility visits.
The equine industry is an integral element of the overall APHIS mission. There are, however, times during which animal-health emergencies take precedent over all other activities, APHIS emphasized.