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Tracing disease emergence: canine babesiosis in the UK
  1. Nicholas Johnson, BVSc, MRCVS
  1. Animal and Plant Health Agency, Woodham Lane, Surrey KT15 3NB, UK, e-mail:

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IT IS a well-known cliché that the British are a nation of dog lovers, and presumably this includes maintaining the health of those dogs. The emergence of a disease that threatens canine health is clearly of concern, and early detection, information sharing and prevention are critical to maintaining the health of the nation's pets. But who is delivering this useful service?

In February of this year a focus of canine babesiosis cases was reported from a private veterinary surgeon in Harlow, Essex (Swainsbury and others 2016). None of the dogs infected had recently travelled outside the UK. Subsequent investigations confirmed the infectious agent as Babesia canis (Phipps and others 2016), a pathogen rarely encountered in this country and normally resulting from a dog visiting disease-endemic areas (Shaw and others 2003, Tappin 2009). A further step was to link the pathogen to ticks in an area where a number of the dogs had been exercised (Hansford and others 2016). Although the outbreak in Harlow attracted attention by local and national media, cases declined relatively quickly, perhaps as a result of action by the local council restricting access to the tick-infested area or a reduction in tick activity. Such events are rare, although predicted by some experts (Shaw and others 2001, Chomel 2011, Wall 2012), and it is entirely possible that this outbreak could have been missed if more than one of the affected dogs had not gone to the same veterinarian.

Babesiosis is an emerging tickborne disease caused by protozoan parasites …

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