January is Stock Show month at LEQMC. It has been a forty-plus year tradition for the clinic to provide veterinary care for all the horses competing and performing at the Stock Show. I asked myself why is this a tradition for LEQMC. Tradition is defined as a belief or behavior passed down within a group with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past. Well that answers it: The Stock Show has been an important part of Colorado agriculture and the horse industry for many years. I’m glad LEQMC has stepped up and supported our industry for many years with little concern for financial gain. It is a source of pride for me to be part of this effort.
The entire clinic staff takes turns being available at the Stock Show for any veterinary care that might be required. As Kathi’s and my duty days approached, we heard a radio news report a suspected case of Ebola had been identified in Denver. Would this report change anything at the Stock Show?
Last summer a vesicular stomatitis outbreak had a great impact on horse shows. The clinic staff had been very busy performing inspections on all participants prior to horses being allowed to enter the show facilities. The horse community soon became familiar with the disease control protocols, and it was unusual for a horse owner not to cooperate. I was so proud of the horse community. But how would the general public react to disease control measures if similar rules were implemented at the Stock Show if Ebola Virus was in fact present in Denver?
Luckily the suspected case of Ebola Virus tested negative. I still thought it might be interesting to look at the Stock Show with an eye for disease control among the human attendees. I started my mock-inspection at a crowd favorite, the children’s petting zoo. It is always such fun to visit the petting zoo without children. The unbridled joy of these young kids as they hug and kiss the small farm animals is contagious [no pun intended]. For many of these kids this was the first time they had ever seen or touched such animals; but today looking at the zoo as a potential disease spread area forced me to look in a different way.
There were numerous parents holding small hands waiting in a long line for the chance to turn the child loose in a small fenced-in area with multiple small animals. The farm animals were anxious to exchange a few hugs and kisses for treats. The waiting line was marked with Cairns formed from soiled diapers and empty drink containers, instead of traditional stones. Parents fearing if they accomplished proper disposal the action may have caused them to loose their place in line had formed the Cairns.
It didn’t take an especially sharp eye to see one similarity between horses and children. Both are quite proficient at removing nasal discharge by wiping it on convenient objects. For the horse the site is usually its front canon bone area. For the child it is on any object, even the farm animals! I’m sure if Ebola Virus were present in these children and if someone had a special light that caused the virus to fluoresce, the donkey and the goat would light up like the evening star on a clear night.
My conclusion? Considering the social habits and the lack of education of many people on the most basic methods of disease control, I fear the control of a severe disease outbreak in humans would be very difficult. Also I am very glad I work with horses!
Horse people are stable people for the most part, aren’t they?