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Horse owners should watch for symptoms of coronavirus

News Release Distributed 12/02/14

BATON ROUGE, La. – A horse in Port Allen, Louisiana, has been diagnosed by the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine with equine enteric coronavirus. This highly infectious RNA virus can cause intestinal distress and is more common during the colder months of the year, said LSU AgCenter equine specialist Neely Walker.

Coronaviruses are a part of a large group of RNA viruses that can cause both respiratory and intestinal distress in a variety of species, including birds, dogs, cats, swine, cattle and humans.

Equine coronavirus only affects the intestine and typically is not fatal, but special attention is required to keep it from spreading, Walker said. No vaccine is currently available.

Infection spreads in horses by fecal-oral transmission, which can occur when horses are stabled together or during transport. Symptoms include fever above 102 degrees, loss of appetite and appearing depressed or lethargic, she said.

Typical treatment includes supportive care, such as intravenous fluids, fever-reducing medications and gastrointestinal support. Walker said symptoms usually go away in one to four days.

Some horses may experience one to two days of diarrhea or loose feces and signs of mild colic. In rare cases, additional complications, such as bloodstream infection or neurologic abnormalities, can occur, Walker said.

Once a horse is diagnosed with equine coronavirus, it must be isolated. Even once a horse stops showing clinical symptoms, it can shed the coronavirus through manure for up to three weeks.

Walker recommends that horse handlers use disinfectant footbaths, disposable gloves and individual equipment when working with infected horses. Limiting traffic in and out of barns and using veterinary-grade disinfectants also help reduce the chance of spreading the virus.

People who are concerned a horse may have equine enteric coronavirus should contact a veterinarian immediately.

Olivia McClure

Last Updated: 12/2/2014 2:45:04 PM

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