January 2006

The American Horse Council has released a white paper entitled “NAIS and Horses: Why Horses Should be Included.” The paper has been written in answer to a common question regarding why horses should be included in the National Animal Identification System, since “horses don’t carry diseases that affect other livestock or that affect humans.”

Most people don’t realize that horses do in fact contract diseases that can also be found in other livestock and, in some cases, in humans. The AHC paper lists and explains several of those diseases. The paper also describes some of the diseases that are experienced both by humans and horses, although in most cases, horses do not play a role in spreading these diseases to humans. (West Nile virus and Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis are examples.) However, there are some infectious diseases that horses can contract that they can transmit to humans. Examples of such zoonotic diseases include rabies, salmonella, ringworm, leptospirosis, brucellosis, and anthrax.

Clearly, some equine diseases do have public health implications, and a severe outbreak of any of the diseases listed would have a substantial veterinary and economic impact. A quick response to such an outbreak will be critical to keeping the horse industry operating. It is for this reason that the horse industry is included in the National Animal Identification System. The full paper is available at www.horsecouncil.org.