Equine Enteric Coronavirus

There has been growing concern among our clients about a relatively new virus in the equine world called equine enteric coronavirus “ECoV”. We wanted to post some information to better educate everyone and better prepare people in case their horses are affected.

Most of the cases that we are aware of this year have presented with fever, lethargy, and inappetance. A few have had mild colic signs. Most of these horses are back to normal within a few days. This virus creates signs that are very similar to the flu, though we don’t tend to see upper respiratory signs (like coughing and nasal discharge) with ECoV. There can be complications in RARE cases, but we have not had any in our practice this year that we are aware of. There are rumors spreading of horses dying in the state from ECoV and while this can happen in rare cases, we are not aware of any. Complications like neurologic signs and death would likely be associated with a poor immune system or coinfection with other diseases.

The virus is spread quite easily through the fecal-oral route. Horses shed the virus in their manure and are infected when they ingest the virus. This can be spread as easily as a human caretaker getting a small amount of manure on their boots and tracking it to another stall or even another barn all together, so proper biosecurity protocols are very important. It is also important to let people know that there is a virus on the property that is contagious. If your vet, your farrier, your boarders etc. don’t know about a contagious virus they could spread it unknowingly to other barns. If people are made aware they can take proper precautions like disinfecting their boots, washing their hands and changing their clothes before seeing horses that have not yet been exposed. Washing contaminated items with a detergent and then disinfecting them with 10% bleach is an effective way to kill the virus.

This is a relatively new virus in the equine world so we are learning information about it as more research is done. We know that the virus is shed in manure from 3-25 days after the horse starts showing signs. Some horses (up to 80% depending on the strain of virus they are infected with) do not show any signs at all- not even a fever- but they can still shed the virus. We do not know how long the virus stays alive in the environment, but studies in humans have shown that it lives longer in cold environments and can live 17 days or more in manure and urine. Sunlight and drying will kill it faster.

We can test horses by looking for DNA from the virus in manure samples. The samples are mailed out to a lab and take a few days to a week to get the results.

We are aware that there is a stigma associated with this virus where people don’t want to admit that their barn is infected, but transparency is required to contain the spread of the virus. Everyone will benefit from the dissemination of accurate information and the horses will ultimately be safer and recover more quickly.

If you have more questions, or need help instituting a biosecurity plan, feel free to call us. As always, it is important to quarantine ALL new horses to your facility, especially if they have come from a property where they may be infected with a contagious disease. 30 Days is a standard length of time for a proper quarantine.