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Role of vets in practice

Vets in practice have a crucial role in scanning surveillance as the 'eyes and ears' of animal health and welfare on farms, investigating herd and flock health and production problems on a daily basis across the country.

Diagnostic investigation benefits vets and their clients through rapid and specific disease diagnosis, allowing prompt and effective decisions on treatment. One of the uses of the data gathered from diagnostic submissions is in monitoring local and national disease trends, so that information on changes in disease patterns can be shared with veterinary practitioners and across the livestock industry to help protect animal health and welfare.

The scanning surveillance network generates a wide range of information, not only from submissions but also from the contacts and case discussions that take place between vets in practice and vets in the surveillance network.

All of the surveillance intelligence gathered can then be shared with vets across GB to help identify, manage and prevent diseases and support farmers and the livestock industry to manage flock/herd health, animal welfare and production. An example of sharing the data can be seen on the disease surveillance dashboards.

Diagnostic investigations and case enquiries by vets in practice thus make an important contribution to scanning surveillance and prompt detection of new diseases that may threaten animal health and welfare or public health.

Submissions to the diagnostic network by vets contribute to a wide range of other benefits of surveillance including:

  • Finding new or unusual antimicrobial or anthelminthic resistance patterns that can impact the effectiveness of treatment
  • Detecting and controlling zoonotic diseases, which can be followed up in collaboration with public health agencies
  • Helping to fulfil statutory national and international disease reporting requirements
  • Promptly detecting ‘chemical food safety’ threats which can be investigated in collaboration with the Food Standards Agency, to protect the food chain
  • Promptly detecting threats to international trade
  • Identifying suspect adverse reactions which can be investigated in collaboration with Veterinary Medicines Directorate
  • Gathering evidence to inform the need for further field studies and targeted surveillance
  • Building a valuable archive of samples which can be stored for use in test validation, or for scientific research to help understand livestock and wildlife diseases

How you can play a part

As a vet in practice, you can participate in surveillance by:

  • Discussing cases, particularly new, unusual severe or unresponsive, with APHA’s Veterinary Investigation Officers. You don't need to send in a submission to discuss cases or get free advice from veterinarians in the network
  • Following best guidelines when making a submission. Take a look at our online submitting service
  • When submitting samples for PME or laboratory testing, make sure you complete all the boxes on the submission form so that all data relevant for interpretation and further analysis of results is captured

Your support in action

An example of the value of scanning surveillance is that APHA was able to confirm the presence of Schmallenberg virus in malformed lambs and calves found by farmers in 2016/17. Identifying and sharing this information wouldn’t be possible without sample submissions from vets in practice.