We’ve tried a number of different infectious diseases initiatives in the past, aimed at increasing infectious disease education and awareness of both veterinarians and pet owners. Some have worked very well (like this blog), others less so. However, there’s still a lot that can be done.

Here’s our latest initiative – whether it flies or flops remains to be seen, but I think it could be useful.

Most weeks (or multiple times a week), I get a call about infectious disease concerns in an imported dog. It’s not hard to identify some of the infectious disease risks (and it gets easier the more I do it); however, we don’t have a  centralized record of what diseases are coming from different regions.

So, why not try to make one?  It’s easier said than done.  Why is that?

  • There aren’t a lot of people working in the companion animal infectious disease world, so there are lots of gaps. “If you don’t look, you don’t find” is a good adage in this regard.
  • So, the available information is patchy, particularly for certain diseases, and some diseases may seem common in certain areas simply because someone happens to be looking for them there.
  • That means we can confidently say that a disease is present in a particular region, but it’s harder to confidently say that a disease is not present.

Yet, it’s still a good start.

So, here’s the first, basic attempt: a map of canine influenza.

The static map is above. Click here for a more interactive map that will provide details when you hover over a country and allow you to zoom in. The colour scale  ranges from my crude categories of “hyperendemic/very common” to “widespread” to “has been sporadically or previously identified” to “not reported/no data.” It’s an empirical scale but it suits our needs for now. The maps also have the ever-present issue of using a national scale which can distort regional risks (e.g. Canada is a very big country and something that’s present in one region may be of no concern in another). These maps are being done in R and I’m just learning how to map with that, so hopefully they’ll get a bit better over time.

Crowd-sourced surveillance will be useful with this project. While formal research is limited for many diseases in different regions, veterinarians and owners know what they see. We’ll be looking for input into the maps that we develop, especially data relating to developing regions and areas where research data are limited.

This is just the first attempt and more diseases will hopefully be coming soon.  As always, input is welcome.