Equine coronavirus, or ECoV, has been on many veterinarians’ radars lately: While they’ve long known the virus is commonly found in foals, it’s recently been implicated in several outbreaks among adult horses. So to better understand the disease it causes and how to best diagnose and manage outbreaks, researchers recently completed a study on ECoV in mature horses.

At the 2013 American Association of Equine Practitioners’ Convention, held Dec. 7-11 in Nashville, Tenn., Nicola Pusterla, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, a professor at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, presented the results of the study.

Background

"We consider this an emerging pathogen," Pusterla said, noting that disease outbreaks associated with ECoV and adult horses have rarely been described in the scientific literature prior to recent years.

Pusterla said common signs of ECoV infection in adult horses include anorexia, lethargy, and fever; less common signs of disease include diarrhea, colic, and neurologic deficits. Complications include septicemia (bloodstream infection), endotoxemia (endotoxin in the bloodstream), and encephalopathy (a brain condition caused by abnormally high ammonia levels in the blood), all of which are associated with gastrointestinal tract barrier breakdown, he said. Coronavirus has high morbidity rates, but low mortality rates (meaning many horses will develop illness, but few will die as a result), he said, and it’s often self-limiting.

Coronavirus is spread feco-orally, Pusterla said, "and likely passed from horse to horse via fecal contamination of