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Changing perspectives in veterinary epidemiology


, : Changing perspectives in veterinary epidemiology. Polish Journal of Veterinary Sciences 4(1): 19-25

Veterinary epidemiology investigates disease, other health-related events, and productivity in animals. The subject's initial focus was on infectious diseases. However, the development of vaccines, and success of test-and-cull programmes, reduced the incidence of infectious diseases in the late-nineteenth and twentieth centuries, enabling intensification of livestock enterprises. Many diseases in intensive production systems, and in companion animals, are complex and multifactorial, either with, or without, an infectious component. Statistical methods to identify the relationships between diseases and potential causal factors (risk factors) emerged as an important part of veterinary epidemiology, reflecting an increased emphasis on quantification in veterinary medicine. Contemporary areas of activity include ad hoc surveys of specific diseases to assess the latter's impact; and continuous monitoring and surveillance systems. Both of these areas require rigorously evaluation of the diagnostic tests that are applied. Observational studies (case-control, cohort and cross-sectional) measure the magnitude of the relationship between disease and risk factors, thereby quantifying the contribution that each factor makes to disease occurrence (e.g., the role of neutering in relation to canine acquired urinary incontinence). Therapeutic and prophylactic procedures (e.g., vaccination against canine infectious tracheobronchitis) are also being subjected to randomised, controlled clinical trials, so that their effects can be objectively assessed.

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