It’s the talk of the town: Coronavirus. But instead of stocking up on toilet paper (okay, we may have done that, too), we found ourselves curious about the horse-afflicting virus of the same name. Equine coronavirus—or ECoV—brings on some similar symptoms in horses that COVID-19 does in humans, but it cannot be transmitted between the two. Here we’ll take a look at the clinical signs and symptoms of a coronavirus infection in horses, and briefly discuss how digital health monitoring can play a role in the care of ECoV patients.
WHAT IS EQUINE CORONAVIRUS?
Amidst the COVID-19 outbreak chaos, a horse in Maricopa County, Arizona was diagnosed with coronavirus on February 13th and the case was reported the State Veterinarian’s Office the next day. The seemingly isolated incident occurred in a 5-year-old Standardbred-cross gelding. According to this disease factsheet for equine coronavirus by the American Association of Equine Practitioners, ECoV is a low-frequency and usually mild RNA virus transmitted when feces from an infected horse are ingested by another horse, known as fecal-oral transmission.
CLINICAL SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
- Fever up to 105° F (40.5° C)
- Lack of appetite
- Laying down frequently
- Diarrhea (may or may not be present)
- Low white blood cell count
- Protein loss
- Neurologic signs (such as lethargy, depression, loss of body control) secondary to an excess of ammonia in the system
- Recumbency that can progress to an inability to stand
DIAGNOSIS & TREATMENT
Diagnosis is made by a veterinarian submitting samples for PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests of a fecal sample. The primary treatment is supportive care based on the clinical signs, but severe cases may require hospitalization for IV fluid treatment or treatment for secondary infections.
PREVENTION & BIOSECURITY
There is no vaccine for equine coronavirus. The best preventative measure is a high standard of sanitation in all equine facilities. Manure should be disposed of where it cannot contaminate pastures, paddocks or drinking water. When cleaning surfaces that may be contaminated with feces, first clean the surface to remove all traces of organic matter, then disinfect. Any horse with a fever and no evidence of respiratory illness may have ECoV and feces may be infective. In this case, horses should be isolated by handling them last when feeding, grooming, and cleaning stalls to prevent transmission. Horses that are moved to a new facility from a facility where horses were tested positive for the virus should be isolated for three weeks.
DIGITAL HEALTH MONITORING
Although decisive diagnosis of ECoV is made by fecal sample testing, vets can employ digital health monitoring for suspected ECoV infections in the interim, as well as for managing symptoms and tracking recovery. While “inapparent shedders” of the virus don’t show clinical signs, those that do may suffer from things like fever and colic, and may lie down more frequently.
With the Piavet System, temperature and heart rate can be measured over longer periods, and vets can even see how frequently a horse lies down. Lying down, in particular, is a very common sign of a coronavirus infection in horses. Lethargy was cited in a study of ECoV as the second most common clinical sign, with 88% of infected horses exhibiting the behavior. The Piavet System’s sophisticated algorithm for detecting horses lying down laterally is also extremely helpful when spotting signs of ECoV-related symptoms like colic or depression.
With severe (albeit rare) cases, horses may become hospitalized. In these situations, horses are usually kept isolated due to the highly contagious nature of the virus. And, as is the case for any at-risk patient, clinical supervision and monitoring isn’t only a task for daytime hours. The remote monitoring capability of Piavita’s data-driven software, in combination with the non-invasive hardware that can be worn long-term and overnight, alleviates staff from entering the isolation area more than necessary.
At Piavita, we like happy vets and healthy horses. It’s that simple. Our mission it to transform veterinary care by providing remote health monitoring technology to the veterinary industry. With a non-invasive, sensor-enabled hardware device and sophisticated software platform, the Piavet Solution automates and digitizes repetitive, manual tasks to help vets save time and improve patient outcomes. We are a diverse group of engineers, developers, researchers, and horse people with a passion for delivering meaningful solutions to veterinarians. We operate out of offices in Zürich, Berlin, and North Carolina. Have a question or suggestion? We’d love to hear from you.