Heartworm is now a reportable condition in the state of Washington.
The condition was added to Washington's 30-day reportable list. The list has only been revised twice in the last five years, according to Paul Kohrs, DVM, assistant state veterinarian, Washington State Department of Agriculture.
Although it is common for veterinarians across the country to manage and or treat a wide spectrum of types of infectious diseases in practice, only a select number would qualify as "reportable," including rabies or tuberculosis.
The diseases and conditions become reportable when the disease effects on the public are significant, prompting the U.S. Department of Agriculture or other federal or state agencies to require reporting by veterinarians and or physicians.
According to Dr. Kohrs, the state of Washington actually began instituting heartworm testing after Hurricane Katrina.
"At that time, we felt we saw a minor 'bump' in numbers of confirmed cases," he says.
However, to date, the state has seen relatively low incident rates, at least according to what DVMs report to the state's agriculture department. Although heartworm is still a relatively nominal issue in the state, Kohrs says it is endemic among the canine population in neighboring states, such as California. Dogs from other states are sometimes brought into Washington for testing.
Currently, the state does have a vector. The goal is to keep incidence low by testing, although the testing is not fail-safe, as there will be an occasional positive case in a canine, according to Kohrs.
"We want to make veterinarians more aware of reportable diseases. They can request the test when necessary and report to us any positive results," he says.