The First Modules of Online Aquatic Veterinary Resources: Aquatic Veterinarian and Disease Diagnostic Laboratory Databases
IAAAM Archive
A. David Scarfe, PhD, DVM, MRSSA
American Veterinary Medical Association
Schaumburg, IL, USA

In the past three decades aquaculture has globally risen to be one of the dominant animal agriculture production systems. Similarly, a myriad of different aquatic animal species types are now recognized as significant companion animals (both in numbers owned and number households) that rival cats and dogs as pets, as research animals, and in public captive and display facilities. With this recognition the need for aquatic veterinary resources has grown geometrically. Indeed, disease in aquatic animals is now accepted as a significant limiting factor in aquatic animal production. Consequently, the demand for aquatic veterinary services has increased proportionally over the past decade in order to reduce risks from, and respond to disease outbreaks.

Diseases of aquatic animals are now deemed the largest risk to the continued development and stability of commercial aquaculture and other aquatic animal industries in the U.S. and globally. This is clearly illustrated through the attention given to disease prevention, control and eradicating programs by national and international agencies, entities and industries. By example, in the U.S., finfish disease outbreaks have resulted in two of the four recent National Disease Emergency Declarations (for infectious salmon anemia and spring viremia of carp) comparable to other internationally important livestock and poultry diseases. Response to just these two disease cost industries and government well in excess of $20M. More than half of the 26 aquatic animal diseases in finfish, crustacean and molluscs, currently listed by OIE (World Organization for Animal Health) as "notifiable" (disease incidents are required to be reported to National and International Authorities), are endemic in the U.S.

Two of the most important aquatic veterinary resources needed for preventing, controlling or eradicating disease are veterinarians engaged in this growing discipline, and disease diagnostic laboratories. These resources were difficult very difficult for veterinarians, aquaculture industries, pet owners, governments, the public (potential clients) to locate.

In response, the AVMA, in collaboration with GlobalVetLink (GVL) and Aquaculture Underwriting Management Services (AUMS), and with modest assistance from USDA, Risk Management Agency, developed the first of several anticipated online aquatic veterinary resources modules: searchable databases to allow end-users to locate aquatic veterinarians and disease diagnostic laboratories that provide services to aquaculture industries. While initially targeted at services in the U.S. and Canada, the databases designs were modified to be global in response to requests from veterinarians and diagnostic laboratories outside North America.

Relational databases designed for online access were initially seeded with data of ~2,400 veterinarians and ~110 diagnostic laboratories known to be involved with any aspect of aquatic animal veterinary medicine, health and disease. Veterinarians and laboratories were notified and refined their own information through secured (password protected) online access before information became public. Participant comments allowed system refinement to optimize information input/output and allow current and future aquatic veterinarians and diagnostic laboratories to edit or register and add information. Subsequently the final products was made public through a common web portal ( and other veterinary-allied websites, and promoted through press releases, news stories, and the production and distribution of brochures.

Currently these databases now provide information, at no cost, to any end-users including veterinarians, aquaculture producers and aquatic animal owners, governments and NGO entities, and other interested parties such as insurance providers. Through simple searches end-users can locate veterinarians or laboratories with experience in all aquatic species types including crustacea, molluscs, finfish, reptiles, amphibians and marine mammals. Covering all veterinary disciplines, from clinical practice to epidemiology and regulatory veterinary medicine, and employer types, from private practice and zoo or aquaria to academics, government agencies and hatcheries, and access to potentially any diagnostic test available for any aquatic disease, these databases open a unique resource.

While implemented to allow end-users quick and easy access to aquatic veterinary and diagnostic laboratory resources, online resources and databases will continue to be refined and modified to fit the needs of veterinarians, diagnostic laboratories and all end und-users based on feedback received. These initial modules serve as the basis for developing publishable directories. They also provide the initial critical infrastructure needed for developing on-line processes for veterinarians, diagnostic laboratories and other appropriate parties, to send and receive confidential e-diagnostic submission forms, test results, health/disease reports and certificates that are tentatively planned as future modules. However, this first step is seen to significantly contribute to and support disease prevention, surveillance and response programs, at the farm, regional, national and international levels.

Future maintenance and improvement of these initial modules along with the development of new aquatic veterinary resource modules will require substantial support from veterinary entities, allied groups and others that have a substantial stake in the development and stability of aquatic animal industries. However, once implemented expanded online aquatic veterinary resources easily accessible to any and all end-users are seen as pivotal to support the stability and growth of aquatic veterinary medicine and the aquatic animal industries served.

This initial work was supported by USDA-Risk Management Agency (Agreement 01-IE-0831-127) through Mississippi State University (Subcontract 010500 320946-12).

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A. David Scarfe

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