Databases will assist aquatic animal veterinarians and their clients

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By Kate O'Rourke

Two databases that will allow the public and veterinarians to search and locate aquatic animal veterinarians and diagnostic laboratories, by location or services offered, are in the works.

The databases, which will be available online, will help reduce the impact of diseases—being able to identify veterinarians and veterinary laboratories that can assist during a disease outbreak is key to mounting an effective response. They will also provide aquatic animal owners with resources for providing quality care for their animals.

"There is no single source for veterinarians, aquaculture producers, aquatic animal owners, state and federal government regulators, and industry to locate an aquatic animal veterinarian or find out what diagnostic laboratory services are available in the United States," said Dr. David Scarfe, an assistant director in the AVMA Scientific Activities Division.

In recent years, animal disease has emerged as one of the most important factors hindering the development of aquaculture worldwide. In the United States, two of the four most recent national animal emergency declarations were issued for aquatic animals. The Department of Agriculture declared an emergency for infectious salmon anemia, in 2001, and spring viremia, which affects varieties of carp and related species, in spring 2003. In both cases, the AVMA assisted by helping locate veterinarians who could help respond.

For several years, the AVMA Aquatic Veterinary Medicine Committee, formerly the Aquaculture and Seafood Advisory Committee, has been examining ways to fund development of databases that would localize information about aquatic animal veterinarians and laboratories. Now, the AVMA, GlobalVetLink, and Aquaculture Underwriting and Management Services have been awarded a $35,000 grant to do just this.

The project is being funded by Mississippi State University, which has a $3.6 million grant from the USDA Risk Management Agency to implement a national risk management feasibility program for aquaculture.

GlobalVetLink has already developed primary Web-based information system platforms for the animal health regulatory industry, and is currently assisting USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service develop online systems for issuing electronic certificates of veterinary inspection for interstate animal movement. Aquaculture Underwriting and Management Services is part of the international Aquaculture RiskWatch system, an independently run, online database system for gathering information on the risks, losses, and hazards in aquaculture.

In January, individuals from the Aquatic Veterinary Medicine Committee, GlobalVetLink, and Aquaculture Underwriting and Management Services met to finalize details for the endeavor. Currently, the $35,000 grant is being used as initial funding to construct the database systems, seed them with information already collected, and test them. In the second half of 2005, the project partners will begin identifying, contacting, and encouraging aquatic animal veterinarians and laboratories to enter their contact information and areas of specialty into the databases. Once refined, the databases will be publicly accessible from the partners' Web sites.

The project will aid in the diagnosis, prevention, and control of aquatic diseases in the United States. Pet owners will also have an easier time locating veterinarians for their aquatic friends, and this could be a boon for some veterinary practices.