Contagious Respiratory Viruses
“Equine influenza or other respiratory viruses (rhinopneumonitis, rhino virus) or bacteria can strike a horse regardless of the time of year. Horses that attend events where other horses are congregated or horses that live in large boarding barns are particularly at risk. Not all horses that contract a viral infection will display overt clinical signs, but such a horse may then be a carrier capable of infecting less immune-competent individuals. In this way, a horse that has never even left the property could become infected.”
What if you took your horse to a show and the horse stabled next to yours had a respiratory virus, but showed no clinical signs at the time? After the show, your horse comes home, begins to show signs of viral infection and, before you know it, the respiratory virus has spread to the other horses at the barn.
In her 2019 presentation on “Respiratory Diseases in Horses,” Dr. Jennifer Dunlap explained:
“Viral respiratory infections include Influenza (EIV); Rhinopneumonitis (equine herpes virus) of which the two major types are EHV-1 – respiratory, abortion, and neuro rhino and EHV-4, respiratory only. These diseases are characterized by high fevers, snotty noses, depression, off feed, and can be complicated by secondary bacterial pneumonia.
“For Influenza (EIV) Type A virus (A/equine 2), the Equine Rhinopneumonitis-Influenza vaccine is very effective. Horses with Influenza can have very high fevers (105+) and a secondary risk is laminitis.”
The same principles that apply to the transference of equine respiratory viruses apply to the transfer of respiratory viruses among humans. The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person, typically through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, or talking, singing, and just breathing.
There is currently no licensed medication to cure COVID-19 and, as yet, no vaccine to prevent it. Vaccines against pneumonia or malaria, or antibiotics, do NOT prevent or cure COVID-19. The ONLY way to prevent spreading the disease is by wearing face coverings; keeping your distance from others (at least one horse stride), who should also be wearing face coverings; washing hands frequently; and regularly cleaning commonly used surfaces.
In Shelby County, TN (Memphis area) Sept. 5-18 there were 2,068 new cases, totaling 31,391 cases as of Sept. 28 and 459 deaths. Shelby County had the most cases in Tennessee, surpassing Davidson County (Nashville area) in both number of cases and deaths. Nationwide, the U.S. has 7.15 million cases and nearly 200,000 deaths from this contagious disease. The U.S. leads the world in both the number of cases and number of deaths: 7,190,230 cases and 205,986 deaths (as of Sept. 30, 2020). In Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama there are approximately 10-24 new cases per 100,000 people daily indicating escalating community spread. Arkansas is seeing over 25 new cases per 100,000 people daily, indicating unchecked community spread. [Information from Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University and the Harvard Global Health Institute]
The Mid-South Horse Review has regularly covered equestrian events since 1992. But we find it increasingly risky to our health and our employees’ health to cover equestrian events when show participants and management do not take basic precautions to prevent the spread of contagious disease.
When we come to your barn or your show, we wear face coverings and keep our distance to protect YOU from any germs/viruses we might possibly carry. When you wear a mask and keep your distance, you are protecting US from any germs/viruses you might carry. The uncertainty is not knowing who around you may be carrying the virus and who is not. If everyone consistently practices recommended prophylaxis, the spread of the disease will be curtailed. If there are lapses, the virus will have opportunities to continue its spread. Please protect your family and your equestrian friends.
Loving, Nancy S. DVM. “Respiratory Problems.” AAEP. https://aaep.org/horsehealth/respiratory-problems
Dunlap, Jennifer, DVM. 2019. “Respiratory Disease in the Horse.” Mid-South Horse Review. March. https://www.midsouthhorsereview.com/articles.php?id=6891
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