Pet Points: Coronavirus causes problems worldwide

In a recent Pet Points article, I discussed coronavirus in cats and the clinical disease of Feline Infectious Peritonitis.

Coronavirus is classified and named after the crownlike spikes on the surface of the virus as seen under intense magnification. Other coronavirus infections have also been in the news recently and I felt that I should explain them and how they affect other species.

Just this month, a new rule in Utah prohibited returning pigs to the farm after a fair or exhibition. These pigs will now be required to go directly to a slaughter to prevent the spread of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus.

This virus is not a threat to humans or other animal species but it has caused severe economic damage in the swine industry. As many as 7 million pigs have died due to PEDv in the U.S. in the past year. Since being discovered in Ohio, the disease has spread to 30 other states and no cure is in sight, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Ten percent of all pigs have died as a result of the disease. The cost of the virus will be the sad loss of so many pigs, the economic hardship to the industry and the rise in the cost of pork. The cause of this disease is a coronavirus.

Also making headlines around the world is Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, another coronavirus. CNN is reporting that 100 people have died as a result of MERS. Camels are suspected as the source of the infection. Three-quarters of all camels tested are positive for past exposure to the virus. Of the more than 300 human cases, one-third have been fatal. Exposure to camel meat and raw camel milk are thought to be the method of transmission. The first human case has been reported in the U.S. after a health care worker returned from Saudi Arabia. That patient is improving.

The SARS virus, also classified as a coronavirus, made headlines as it spread. Ten years ago, more than 8,000 people became infected and more than 700 died as a result of this mysterious illness.

Dogs can get coronavirus but it is a gastrointestinal virus that is rarely a clinical problem. At one point we thought that dogs ill from Parvo virus could also become infected with coronavirus. The vaccine for coronavirus is generally not recommended for dogs.

Research in animals as well as humans will hopefully one day shed light on how to best protect the world from this class of potentially serious diseases. Physicians, veterinarians and researchers are always on the alert for new diseases or changes in existing viruses that have an impact on both animal and human health.

Lawrence Gerson is a veterinarian and founder of the Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic. His biweekly column is intended to educate pet owners. Consultation with a veterinarian is necessary to diagnose and treat individual pets. If you have a question you'd like addressed in Pet Points, email Please include your name and municipality or neighborhood.