Veterinarian Compares Ebola, Africa Horse Sickness Travel Restrictions – Investigation Pending!
Summary of eRumor:
A veterinarian from Idaho said in a “letter to the editor” that horses imported from African countries face stricter screening and quarantine measures than human travelers who could carry the Ebola virus.
This eRumor makes true claims about travel protocols for African Horse Sickness and Ebola, but TruthorFiction.com hasn’t yet confirmed its authorship.
The letter to the editor does not appear on the Lewiston Morning Tribune’s website. However, Dr. David Rustebakke is a real veterinarian who specializes in large animals and equine reproduction at Rustebakke Veterinary Services in Lewiston, Idaho.
TruthorFiction.com reached out to Dr. Rustebakke to confirm whether or not he wrote the letter. Future updates will be posted here.
African Horse Sickness dates back to the 1950s. A major epidemic spread through Africa from 1959-1961 and reached as far as Arabia, Pakistan and India. In all, 300,000 horses were killed in that outbreak. More recently, African Horse Sickness outbreaks have been reported in a number of sub-Saharan countries in Africa, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual.
It’s true that USDA requires that horses imported from countries affected by African Horse Sickness be quarantined for 60 days before entering the U.S, according to the American Horse Council.
It’s also true that screening and quarantine requirements for Ebola are more lax.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced Ebola travel restrictions on October 22, 2014. Passengers who travel from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea were required to fly into one of five airports that had enhanced screening and additional resources in place. But no quarantine requirements were placed on civilian travelers.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel did, however, approve a 21-day quarantine for U.S. troops who return from West Africa on October 29, 2014, to help prevent the spread of Ebola.
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. The guy is a professional, trained and experienced in four-legged patients.
Clarkston, aptly named for explorer William Clark of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, is in southwest Washington and is where the Snake and Clearwater Rivers meld. The town is the gateway to North America’s deepest gorge, Hells Canyon, and it is a pretty spectacular place where Dr. Rustebakke often rides his own horses and views the world’s splendor.
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. And, yes, the Idaho town was named for Meriweather Lewis, William Clark’s pal.
See if you don’t think Dr. Rustebakke’s letter makes a little sense:
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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