Vector-Borne Disease Surveillance in Puerto Rico: Pathogen Prevalence Rates in Canines - Implications for Public Health and the U.S. Military - Applying the One Health Concept


McCown ME, Opel T, Grzeszak B 13(2). 59 - 63 (Journal Article)

Vector-borne diseases (VBDs) make up a large number of emerging infectious and zoonotic diseases. Vectors such as ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes parasitize dogs, thus making canine populations adequate reservoirs for infectious disease and zoonoses. The U.S. military deploys its personnel and Military Working Dogs (MWDs) throughout the world with possible risk of exposure to VBDs. Canine VBDs continue to have veterinary and public health significance for the host nations as well as for deployed U.S. personnel and MWDs. Thus, ongoing and consistent disease surveillance is an essential component to preserve health. The purpose of this study was to survey dogs from multiple cities and varying regions throughout Puerto Rico to determine the prevalence of ehrlichiosis (Ehrlichia canis), anaplasmosis (Anaplasma phagocytophilum), Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi), and heartworm disease (Dirofilaria immitis) from May to July 2012. Canine blood samples (1-3 ml) from the cities of San Juan (n = 629), Guaynabo (n = 50), Ponce (n = 20) and Vieques Island (n = 53) were obtained and tested on-site using an IDEXX SNAP® 4Dx® (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) test kit. Prevalence for single or multiple disease status was calculated for each site. The overall period prevalence of VBD in Puerto Rico in the shelter population was 57.7% (71/123). In Guaynabo, the VBD prevalence was 30% (15/50); 2 (13%) of these positive dogs had VBD co-infection. In the coastal port city of Ponce, it was 60% (12/20); 6 (50%) dogs were infected by two or more VBDs. On Vieques Island, it was 83% (44/53); 27 (61%) dogs were coinfected. Conversely, samples collected at the Fort Buchanan Veterinary Clinic in the capitol city of San Juan resulted in a VBD prevalence of 8.9% (56/629). Lyme disease was not detected in any sample. This study showed the presence of D. immitis, E. canis, and A. phagocytophilum in all four sites of Puerto Rico, emphasizing the value of surveillance for VBDs to determine disease prevalence, complete risk assessments, and implement timely preventive medicine and other preventive measures. The lower VBD prevalence rate in the canine samples from Fort Buchanan demonstrates the value of responsible pet ownership and importance of preventive medicine and public health.

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