Virus not related to SARS outbreak

Sunday, April 27, 2003


By Dr. John Koch

Question: I read in the newspaper that they now think a Corona virus is causing the SARS outbreak. Recently when I took my dog to the veterinarian, he received a vaccination for Corona virus. Are these the same viruses?

Answer: Corona virus does not represent a single disease-causing entity. Corona is a whole family or category of different viruses. These very tiny agents get their name because when examined under an electron microscope they appear to have a halo surrounding them.

Typically Corona viruses cause symptoms that resemble a common cold or mild intestinal upset. For example, in dogs, Corona viruses produce a disease that looks very much like parvo enteritis (symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea). One veterinary professor stated that clinically you cannot tell the difference between a dog with parvo enteritis and corona enteritis. He went on to say that if the dog recovers from the infection then there is a high probability it was corona virus. If the patient succumbs to disease then it was probably parvo virus.

In cats, corona virus causes a mild respiratory disease. Most cats recover and are fine.

There is a vaccine available for both dogs and cats that protect against the particular corona viruses that infect them. The virus that infects cats does not infect dogs and vice versa.

According to medical research, there are 400 different viruses known to cause the common cold in humans. Of these, the Corona virus family is the second leading cause. Yet all of the news reports indicate that SARS is much more serious than a cold. There are a lot of questions yet to be answered about this frightening new disease. However, it seems reasonable to conclude that the corona viruses infecting animals are different than Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

Dr. Koch is a Cape Girardeau veterinarian.

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