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Winter Dysentery in Cattle

Winter dysentery usually presents as a herd outbreak causing high morbidity but low fatality. Generally seen in late summer through spring but not limited to those seasons. Cause is not clear but has been associated with CORONAVIRUS. Fever might precede other signs but there is usually no fever by the time cattle are diarrheic.

Bovine coronavirus is an important cause of scours in calves and winter dysentery in cattle. In the Midwestern United States, about 20% of cases are caused by bovine coronavirus. The virus affects the jejunum, ileum, spiral colon, mesenteric lymph node, and rectum. Kansas State University has developed a monoclonal antibody, 8F2 that specifically detects bovine coronavirus. This antibody also reacts with other ruminant coronaviruses, including elk coronavirus, which are antigenically, biologically, and genetically related. We have characterized this monoclonal antibody for its specificity and have found it to be sensitive and specific for detecting the virus in formalin-fixed tissues.

Additional information

Winter dysentery is an acute, highly contagious GI disorder that affects housed adult dairy cattle, primarily during winter. Clinical features include explosive diarrhea (sometimes accompanied by dysentery), a profound drop in milk production, variable anorexia and depression, and mild respiratory signs such as coughing. The disease has a high morbidity but low mortality, and spontaneous recovery within a few days is typical.
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