Welcome

Applied epidemiology, defined as "the application or practice of epidemiology as used to address issues of public or animal health," has been identified as the prime focus of teaching and research at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine on the University of Saskatchewan campus.

The WCVM's Centre for Applied Epidemiology was formed:

  • to showcase applied epidemiologic research
  • to promote learning opportunities here at the University of Saskatchewan.

The main goals of applied epidemiology are:

  • to monitor and describe the distribution of health-related outcomes in populations
  • to study particular risk factors for the development of a health-related outcome
  • to evaluate the effectiveness or impact of an intervention, health program or policy
  • to synthesize results of etiologic studies across disciplines to assess disease causation 
  • to communicate epidemiologic findings effectively to policy makers and the public.

About us

Over the past 15 years, the faculty and non-faculty contingent dedicated to epidemiologic research and teaching within the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) has changed and grown, but our focus of applied epidemiology has remained consistent. 

In 2008, the University of Saskatchewan's Second Integrated Plan identified "epidemiology" as one of the WCVM's key strengths to be promoted and supported. Present faculty, located primarily within the WCVM's Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, have further identified "the practical application of epidemiologic methods in the real world, with real life problems," as the WCVM's strength in the broadening field of epidemiology.

Epidemiology training and its application of principles to real world problems makes no distinction between veterinary and public health epidemiology. The establishment of the School of Public Health and One Health initiatives on campus have created a formal recognition of the historical connection between public and animal health (specifically in epidemiology) on our university campus. 

The WCVM’s Disease Investigation Unit provides opportunities for students and faculty to explore the principles of applied epidemiology in real-life disease investigations.

Members and membership

Director

  • Dr. Tasha Epp, Associate Professor – Zoonoses and Epidemiology, Large Animal Clinical Sciences, WCVM, U of S

Founding Members

  • Dr. John Campbell, Professor - LACS, WCVM U of S
  • Dr. Cheryl Waldner, Professor - LACS, WCVM, U of S
  • Dr. Hugh Townsend, Professor Emeritus - LACS, WCVM, U of S
  • Dr. Tasha Epp, Associate Professor - LACS, WCVM, U of S
  • Dr. Sarah Parker, Research Associate - LACS, WCVM, U of S
  • Dr. Murray Jelinski, Professor - LACS, WCVM, U of S. Alberta Chair in Beef Cattle Health and Production Medicine 
  • Dr. Sheryl Gow, Epidemiologist - Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). Canadian Integrated Program for Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance (CIPARS)
  • Dr. Joanne Tataryn, Epidemiologist - Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). Outbreak Management Division, Centre for Food-borne, Environmental and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases

Educational opportunities

Graduate training in epidemiology

Epidemiology education is a strong focus within the Large Animal Clinical Sciences (LACS) department of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. Prior to the formation of the School of Public Health at the U of S, epidemiology courses were jointly taught between the U of S College of Medicine and WCVM faculty.

At present, epidemiology courses are primarily taught within the School of Public Health with a strong representation by the joint faculty from the WCVM. 

Epidemiology-focused training and research studies for graduates, Masters of Veterinary Science (with a clinical residency), Masters of Science, and Doctorates of Philosophy occurrs at the WCVM through various faculty in the LACS department. Projects cover a wide range of topics including animal health, public health and wildlife/environmental health.

Graduate courses

Many of the Epidemiology courses at the U of S draw upon examples from both animal and human/public health.

  • PUBH 800.3 - Epidemiology for Public Health
  • PUBH 805.3 - Biostatistics for Public Health
  • PUBH 846.3 - Analytic Methods in Epidemiologic Research (Epi 2)
  • PUBH 811.3 - Biostatistics for Public Health II *** Could not find link to this class ***
  • PUBH 809.3 - Field Epidemiology
  • PUBH 832.3 - Infectious Disease Epidemiology
  • VLAC 840.3 - Zoonoses and Food Safety
  • VLAC 881.3 - Clinical Trial Design and Analysis
  • PUBH 842.3 - Current Biostatistical Methods and Computer Applications
  • PUBH 843.3 - Advanced Topics in Analytical Epidemiology (Epi 3)
  • PUBH 844.3 - Chronic Disease Epidemiology
  • PUBH 845.3 - Clinical Epidemiology

Research and disease investigations

The Disease Investigation Unit (DIU) is a long-established unit within the Large Animal Clinical Sciences (LACS) department. The DIU supports private veterinary practitioners in addressing complex and unusual animal health situations. It also enables the livestock industry to respond early and to reduce the economic impact of possible foreign animal disease incursions, emerging livestock disease or food safety crises.

Anatoliy Trokhymchuk MSc candidate, University of Saskatchewan; Cheryl Waldner, University of Saskatchewan; Sheryl Gow, Public Health Agency of Canada; Bonnie Chaban, University of Saskatchewan; Janet E. Hill, University of Saskatchewan.

Ground beef sold by retail outlets in Saskatchewan, Canada originating from a facility regulated by the federal government or licensed by the province can be identified by the package label legend. However, retailers can also sell product that is from locally licensed facilities or has been further processed and repackaged at the point of sale, which might have no label information identifying the source.

The objectives of the study were to collect baseline information on bacterial contamination in retail ground beef offered for sale in Saskatchewan and to assess any differences in bacterial contamination based on information available to the consumer at the point of sale.

Ground beef samples were purchased from May 2011 through May 2012 based on season, geographic region, and census data. Samples were categorized as being from facilities that were federally regulated or licensed by provincial government, licensed by local health regions, or unknown. Total aerobic plate counts (TAPC) and total E.coli plate counts (TEPC) were determined using 3MTM PetrifilmTM methods. Total bacterial contamination (TBC) was estimated using real-time quantitative PCR with a universal 16S RNA bacterial target. The data were analyzed using linear regression to account for season and whether samples were fresh or frozen at purchase.

TAPC and TBC significantly differed among all three study categories. The highest TAPC and highest TBC estimates were observed in repackaged samples with no inspection information on the label legend. TEPCs in samples from federally regulated or provincially licensed facilities were significantly lower than samples from both locally licensed facilities and samples with no inspection information on the label legend.

The lowest average general bacterial contamination measured as TAPC, TEPC, and TBC were observed in samples with label legends indicating they were from federally regulated or provincially licensed production facilities.

Lianne McLeod PhD candidate, University of Saskatchewan; Cheryl Waldner, University of Saskatchewan; Lalita Bharadwaj, University of Saskatchewan. 

Residents of rural and remote communities may be at risk of poor health outcomes related to drinking water, especially where minerals (from natural and/or anthropogenic sources) exceed recommendations set forth in the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality. However, few studies have investigated perception of these risks, and how these perceptions influence behavior. A survey was administered to investigate perceptions of water quality and health risks, and associated beverage choices in Saskatchewan’s rural communities.

A questionnaire was mailed to 7,500 rural households in the fall of 2011. The survey was anonymous and included questions about household tap water sources, beverage choices, and perceptions of water quality and health risks. Multilevel modeling was used to explore associations between drinking water sources, perceptions, and beverage choices.

The surveys had a response rate of 27.6 per cent. Preliminary analysis indicated that having aesthetic concerns about tap water, concerns about contamination of drinking water, past water advisories, and belief in the adequacy of bottled water testing were unconditionally associated with the choice of tap vs. bottled water. These factors were also associated with daily consumption of sugary drinks. Age, gender, and whether there are children in the home were also unconditionally associated, and may represent confounding factors. Full models will be developed to identify relationships between risk factors and choices around drinking water and other beverages (in progress).

To investigate how perceptions of water quality and related risks are associated with measures of water quality and adverse health outcomes, the results this analysis will be linked to the next phase of our research, which will investigate associations between water quality parameters and selected chronic diseases in Saskatchewan.

Tasha Epp, University of Saskatchewan; Cheryl Waldner, University of Saskatchewan; Brendan O’Connor, University of Saskatchewan; Murray Woodbury, University of Saskatchewan.

Malignant catarrhal fever (MCF) is a viral disease that is carried by sheep but is lethal when transmitted to cattle and especially bison. Over the last decade or so, several large outbreaks of MCF in farmed bison have been attributed to exposure to sheep over large distances. One outbreak reported MCF in bison up to five kilometers distant to large numbers of sheep. These outbreak reports have at times sparked dissention between the sheep and bison industries in North America.

This study has enrolled a representative selection of 30 bison herds in Saskatchewan; herds are at varying distances from sheep operations. The study will attempt to evaluate all causes of deaths during one production season (18 months). This will identify specific causes of relevance to Saskatchewan of which future investigate in more detail may be warranted. In particular, this study will describe the incidence of mortality in bison herds as it relates to proximity to sheep; with particular reference to incidence of MCF.

In the first few months of the project, causes of deaths have included MCF, trauma, copper deficiency, and some undetermined etiologies. Funding for the project was provided by Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture's Agriculture Development Fund, a part of the federal-provincial Growing Forward framework.

Jasmine Dhillon PhD candidate, University of Saskatchewan; Tasha Epp, University of Saskatchewan.

First Nation’s people, particularly in Canada’s north, have in the past depended on dogs for protection, companionship and transportation. Dogs continue to play an important role in these communities, providing cultural, recreational, and economic benefits. Many First Nation, rural and remote communities have encountered canine over-population issues and aggressive interactions between humans and dogs.

These communities have recognized issues with dogs in their communities but because of a series of limitations (i.e. lack of access to veterinary services), they have not had the capacity to respond fully. In the present context, canine populations are reduced by canine distemper outbreaks, and in many locations, the annual shooting of excess dogs. Often a severe or fatal aggressive attack in the community is the stimulus for the reduction of canine populations. Addressing dog population issues in these communities will provide benefits for animal health and welfare, the human-animal bond and public health.

Initial meetings with interested communities have involved researchers, elders, band council members and local residents. These meetings have allowed community residents to share their awareness of any dog issues, how these issues are presently addressed, how they feel the issues should be addressed and what their desired end goals are regarding dog populations.

A demographic assessment of the population of dogs in the community includes individual household surveys. In conjunction with not-for-profit groups providing spay and neuter or vaccination clinics, medical and fecal examinations on a subset of dogs have occurred. In a subset of communities, information on the occurrence of dog bites will be recorded.

Subsequent meetings with community members will allow for the exploration of appropriate and sustainable population control measures that each community could implement based on their initiative, financial resources and access to expertise outside their community limits. These measures can include but are not limited to:

  • veterinary solutions such as injectable contraception
  • surgical alterations
  • vaccination and deworming clinics
  • community-led solutions such as registration fees, leash or confinement laws, coordination with local animal shelters, etc.

A repeat assessment of the population demographics will hopefully occur annually and be compared to the baseline results to assess the effectiveness of community implemented control measures. It is theorized that the implementation of these programs will have an impact on the number of aggressive interactions between humans and dogs in these communities.

Contact us

Centre for Applied Epidemiology
Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan
52 Campus Drive
Saskatoon, SK   S7N 5B4

Dr. Tasha Epp, Director
Sarah Parker, Assistant Director