A cross-sectional study of horse owners’ awareness and perceived risk of exotic diseases in the United Kingdom

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Original languageEnglish
Article number104706
Journal / PublicationPreventive Veterinary Medicine
Volume169
Online published31 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019

Abstract

The international nature of the equine industry provides opportunities for the spread of infectious diseases between countries. While incursions of exotic diseases into the United Kingdom (UK) equine population have been rare, the potential socioeconomic and welfare impacts are a significant concern. However, little is known about leisure horse owners’ ability or willingness to prepare for an exotic disease incursion. The objectives of this study were to describe UK leisure horse owners’ awareness and perceptions of exotic diseases, and to identify clusters of horse owners characterised by their awareness and perceived risk of exotic diseases. A cross-sectional study of leisure horse owners in the UK was conducted between April and July 2018. Participants (n = 403) completed an online questionnaire with questions pertaining to demographics, experiences with endemic diseases, and awareness and perceptions of exotic diseases. Hierarchical cluster analysis was used to identify groups of participants that were similar in regard to their awareness and perceived risk of exotic diseases. Participants identified a median of 3 (IQR 2–4) exotic diseases, with the most recognised exotic diseases being African horse sickness and West Nile virus. The most frequently mentioned clinical signs that participants thought were associated with exotic diseases included high temperature (57.2%), discharge (46.5%), and lack of energy (41.2%). Hierarchical cluster analysis identified three clusters of participants: 1) those who were aware of exotic diseases and perceived a high amount of risk (n = 78); 2) those who were aware of exotic diseases but perceived a low amount of risk (n = 111); and 3) those who were less aware of exotic diseases and perceived a low amount of risk (n = 214). Efforts to communicate the relevance and consequences of exotic diseases to horse owners should consider the potential difference in receptiveness among horse owners in each cluster. Further investigations are required to determine the implications of horse owners’ perceived risk on exotic disease preparedness.

Research Area(s)

  • Disease preparedness, Equine, Infectious disease, Risk perceptions

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