Dr. David Rustebakke is a large-animal veterinarian in far-away Clarkston, Washington. He’s been practicing for over 40 years and he knows quite a bit about “horse sense,” because almost every patient he has is really a horse.
Clarkston lives in southwest Washington and is where the Snake and Clearwater Rivers meld.
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As a veterinarian, he also understands viruses better than most, so not long ago he wrote a “Letter to the Editor” that appeared in the nearest newspaper, the Lewiston (Idaho) Tribune.
To The Editor:
If I wish to import a horse into the United States from Liberia or any African country other than Morocco, the horse needs to undergo a 60 day quarantine period at a USDA approved quarantine facility prior to mingling with the general population of horses in this country.
Africa has a disease called African Horse Sickness that does not exist in the US; this is the way we have kept it out of this country. African Horse Sickness does not cause disease in people, only horses; our government has determined that it would be devastating to the US horse industry if it were to come here.
The United States (and virtually all other countries) require a myriad of tests and often quarantine prior to bringing in a foreign animal.
I can’t legally cross state lines in the United States with a horse or cow without a health certificate signed by a USDA accredited veterinarian stating that the animal has been inspected and found free of infectious disease. In most cases blood tests are also required. In fact I can’t legally cross the Snake River and ride my horse in Washington without a health certificate and a negative blood test for Equine Infectious Anemia.
I’m not complaining; the United States of America, the States of Idaho and Washington, as well as the other 48 states take the health of our livestock very seriously, and we have a very good record at keeping foreign animal diseases out of our country. I am happy to do my part to maintain biosecurity in our animal population.
If I am a resident of Liberia incubating Ebola, to enter the United States all I need to do is present a valid visa, and lie when asked if I have been exposed to Ebola. Within hours (no quarantine required) I can be walking the streets of any city in the United States.
I feel very fortunate to live in a country that values our animals so highly.
David A. Rustebakke, DVM
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Dr. Rustebakke’s point is well made. While a 60-day quarantine may be a reach, it stands to reason that a self-imposed safe-guard/quarantine of some type by those who treat Ebola would be most beneficial in a country where a vaccine is not yet plentiful.
It might be that a waiting period between the time a passenger in an Ebola-stricken country buys an airplane ticket and boards a plane to the United States might also help but one thing is for certain: there has never been a horse in America with African Horse Sickness because – never forget this -- we are smarter than that.