Vets working at a new hospital outpost in the Gambia will act as sentinels for emerging tropical diseases fast becoming a real threat to equines in the UK.

centre
The new Makasutu Training Centre, opened by The Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust.

The Makasutu Training Centre and The Derek Knottenbelt Veterinary Hospital have officially been opened by the Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust (GHDT). The training centre will act as a training resource for Gambian and overseas vets, and provide support for the animals of the coastal region and their owners.

GHDT director Heather Armstrong said the facilities have the capacity to help UK vets develop understanding and awareness of diseases they may not come across at home.

Novel experiences

Mrs Armstrong, a former VN, said: “I think the new hospital and our original centre offer British equine vets the opportunity to not only experience Third World conditions, but also see and experience diseases they would not normally see.”

While emerging diseases – such as African horse sickness, West Nile virus and pythiosis – are not yet issues in the UK, Mrs Armstrong believes it is only a matter of time before they reach these shores.

hospital
The Derek Knottenbelt Veterinary Hospital.

“Once the vets see these tropical diseases, they will recognise them in the future. Even if they don‘t see them, they will read about them, become more aware of them and be able to recognise the diseases, if and when they ever reach the UK.”

‘Amazing centre’

Mrs Armstrong said: “This amazing centre has been built with voluntary help and kind donations, along with generous financial support from the Vets with Horsepower team, Jean Sainsbury Animal Welfare Trust and Elise Pilkington Charitable Trust.”

The equine hospital has stabling for 20 patients, offices, a visitor centre and a lecture room with accommodation for volunteers, students and staff.

Richard Newton, head of epidemiology and disease surveillance at the AHT, welcomed the hospital, agreeing it would provide UK volunteer vets with unparalleled opportunities to observe a range of diseases they would not be familiar with.

  • Read the full story in the 24 April issue of Veterinary Times.

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