Coronavirus in Colorado
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Equine Enteric Coronavirus in Colorado

Unfortunately, many barns have been hit with the Coronavirus in Colorado this year. It is a disease that many have not heard of, but can be very serious. In an effort to provide you with the most accurate information, we did some research via Cornell and you will find that information below.

Equine enteric coronavirus should be on your differential list anytime you see a fever (usually less than or equal to 104.0, but in severe cases can climb above that) accompanied by anorexia and lethargy.  It is transmitted by the fecal oral route and signs usually tend to resolve in 1-4 days although animals can continue shedding for several weeks. If your horse has a fever, be sure to call your veterinarian and give them all vitals and information you can on your horse.

One of the most important things to remember in preventing the spread, if you encounter coronavirus in your Colorado barn, is biosecurity.

Overview:  Coronaviruses comprise a large group of RNA viruses that can cause both respiratory and enteric signs of disease in various species. They are further grouped based on genetic and serologic differences into alpha, beta and gamma coronaviruses. The equine coronavirus, a beta coronavirus, has been recently isolated from a number of outbreaks across the country. This is an enteric disease of the equine.  At this time there has been no association with a respiratory component although in cattle enteric and respiratory disease is common.
Transmission:  Fecal-oral route
Survival in environment:  Unknown
Age distribution:  Most often diagnosed in adults, usually older than 2 years of age.
Seasonality:  Seen during the cold weather months (in the Northeast areas), December through May.

Common Clinical Signs/Blood test changes

  • Anorexia
  • Lethargy
  • Fever (usually </= 104.0)
  • Changes in fecal character; diarrhea not routinely seen
  • Mild colicy-like signs (laying down; looking at sides)
  • Neurologic abnormalities (ataxia, depression, recumbency) secondary to hyperammonemia
  • Leukopenia( neutropenia,lymphopenia)
  • Hypoalbunemia

Morbidity ranges from about 20-57% (Pusterla et al., 2013) and mortality  is typically rare, but secondary complications including dehydration, diminished perfusion, and gastrointestinal translocation, can occur (Pusterla et al., 2013) and cause death. Hyperammonemia and associated neurological signs may be cause for mortality.
Duration:  Signs generally resolve in 1-4 days with supportive care and outbreaks typically last for about 3 weeks (Pusterla et al., 2013).

Biosecurity/ Control measures:

  • If beta coronavirus is on your differential list, encourage the barn to practice appropriate biosecurity measures to control the spread of the virus.
  • See the AAEP guidelines: Biosecurity guidelines.
  • Horses can continue shedding the virus in their feces for a few weeks (anecdotal reports have shown up to 21 days) from the onset of clinical signs. The virus is shed in the manure.  Encourage the farm to take precautions by using footbaths, individual thermometers, and disposable gloves between horses.  Attempt to isolate affected animals and handle them last and use separate manure handling equipment from the rest of the barn. Minimize traffic into/out of barn.

~Cornell School of Veterinary Medicine

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