Infectious Camelid Respiratory Disease
Affecting Major Areas of US Herds 

posted November, 2007

     Between the months of June and October 2007, an unknown number of respiratory cases have been seen across the US varying in severity from sub-clinical, mild to severe respiratory disease with fatalities. This recent occurrence of infectious respiratory disease has gone through most of the large camelid population areas in the US leaving many animals affected, some with fatal results. 

     In The Ohio State University Veterinary Hospital, the initial information we received came from telephone calls and referrals of some animals (mostly alpacas) with mild respiratory signs including nasal discharge, coughing and fever. We examined several animals here and submitted samples for serologic testing and virus isolation through our Ohio Veterinary Diagnostic laboratory and the Veterinary Diagnostic laboratory at Oregon State University. To date, most of the samples submitted for serology have come back negative. I have spoken to individuals from the West and East coasts and have read on the various listservs (Veterinary) that their testing has resulted in similar findings. In some of our cases we have had serologic positives for Adenovirus, (reported in association with pneumonia in llamas); however, this virus is reportedly a common finding in camelids. Others I have spoken to suggest Parainfluenza virus may be involved and the possibility that a Coronavirus may be involved is also being investigated. 

     The demographics of the animals we have examined include: Older females (>10 years of age) who are in late pregnancy or early after giving birth (<3 weeks), who present after abortion, or after normal gestation length and delivery of healthy crias. Several llamas with high respiratory rates, fever, abnormal lung sounds and pleural effusion survived after extensive treatment and supportive care. Several older Alpaca females (>10 years of age) with healthy crias (~ 2 weeks of age) presented in respiratory distress, pleural effusion and severe lung consolidation. These animals died en route or were euthanized due to severe pneumonia. Their crias survived without evidence of respiratory disease. 

     Based upon our local findings, and those reports provided to me from other locations in the US, this viral respiratory disease can have serious consequences with bacterial secondary infections. The viral agent is as yet unknown. Many groups are actively conducting tests and accepting samples for future testing once the causative agent has been identified. 

Recommendations for Those Owners Experiencing This Problem: 

1. Enforce strict bio-security protocols to prevent animals from bringing this agent to your farm. I would consider animals that return from shows/breeding farms as potential vectors even if not clinically affected. House these animals separately from the breeding stock for a minimum of 5-10 days before re-introducing them to the herd. As the identity of this agent has not been determined, longer isolation periods may be prudent. 

2. The quarantine facility should be separated in all aspects from the remainder of the farm. Separate personnel should tend to these animals during their quarantine period. Animal handlers, grooms, etc should be provided with disposable outer wear (including caps and shoe covers) to prevent the spread of infectious agents to other animals through contamination of clothing, footwear, etc. Clean equipment, bedding, feed, and all materials to be used in contact with these animals should be kept separate from the rest of the herd. 

3. Maintain strict bio-security of bred females, especially older animals. In our experience these animals are the most severely affected. Limit the stress of handling of pregnant females by evaluation of respiratory rates in pasture (from a distance) and physically restraining only those with an unexpected rise or work in breathing. 

4. Have your Veterinarian examine all animals with clinical signs at an early stage. If deemed necessary due to fever, respiratory rates or other concerns, treatment should be initiated. If your Veterinarian needs information on or about this respiratory condition, please feel free to pass this information on to them. Contact information for experienced Veterinary personnel is posted at the bottom of this statement. 

5. Obtain blood samples (for serum) from those animals demonstrating the common clinical signs (nasal/ocular discharge, coughing, fever, open mouth breathing) and submit these samples to a veterinary diagnostic laboratory for respiratory serology. Although we may not get information back on what is causing this problem soon, those individuals investigating this respiratory condition indicate that future testing of frozen (banked) serum, especially paired serum samples taken 2-4 weeks apart may be useful in gaining an understanding of this problem. 

6. Treatment of those animals with more severe symptoms (fever, pneumonia), should include broad spectrum antibiotics which are effective against gram negative and gram positive bacteria. Those animals we have examined have had a number of opportunistic bacteria isolated from their lungs. 

Contact Information for Respiratory Condition of Camelids

Barbara Baker or Nancy Medland, Co-Associate Directors, ICI
614-403-1016 or

Dr. Jeff Lakritz, Director, ICI
614-292-6661, ext.1

Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospitals: ask to speak with any veterinarian working with camelids

The University of California, Davis
Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital
Phone 530-752-0290

California Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory
Phone : 530-752-8700

Colorado State University
Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital
Phone : 970-221-4535

Colorado Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory
Phone: 970-297-1281

Oregon State University
Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital
Phone: 541-737-2859

Oregon Veterinary Medical Diagnostic laboratory
Phone: 541-737-3261

Washington State University Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital
Phone 509-335-0711

Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory
Phone 509-335-9696

Communications from Camelid Owners to ICI (International Camelid Institute)
 in Past Week:

From an Ohio veterinarian: Dr. Jeff Lakritz
     According to the info on the ICI website, you are in charge of the EAS. There is currently an outbreak of a respiratory virus in alpacas in many areas of the US that has resulted in death in some cases. I have been asked why the EAS has not been activated to alert alpaca breeders of this problem. I have no answer to this question. Do you? Does the EAS still exist? If so, how does one go about activating it? If not, where did all our money go? I would appreciate any information you can give me.”

From Pennsylvania
Dr. Lakritz:

I am the “Industry Liaison” for the “Greater Appalachian Llama and Alpaca Association” (GALA). I have received a number of emails from our Board members regarding some identified type of virus that allegedly has been fatal to a number of alpacas.

The only information I have on this subject is contained in the emails attached below.

Have you heard anything about this matter?

The ICI website indicates that ICI has established an Emergency Alert System (EAS); has this been done and what is required to activate the system?”


This makes for a lousy introduction, but here goes. Some of you may have heard about the serious virus running through the alpaca community. There have been a fair number of deaths, and new ones are being reported daily.

On Friday a number of large universities and vets had a teleconference. A number of things have come out of the meeting:

1. They do not know what it is yet

2. It is viral

3. It is NOT adenovirus

4. Secondary bacterial infections are common

5. Take viral precautions to protect your herd (see Bio –Security Precautions above)

I am collecting data for two files, which are being sent to the participating universities and vets. A map shows the relationship between the outbreaks, shows, and counties where there have been deaths.

Click here for map.    

The excel file gives more information on the total herd size, number infected and premature births cause by the virus.. Here is what I need to know:

State and County you live in
Date you first noticed symptoms
Number infected
Total number in herd
Premature births
Shows/transports/ visits before your outbreak
Comments and treatment used

Your information will be 100% confidential with no names, towns or ranch names. The universities have found this information very helpful, and want it to keep coming. Any vets that want the same information may contact me, and I will add them to my mailing list. 

I thought that portions of Dr. Purdy's last email might be helpful to the list:

”Thank you for sending the updated info. I will pass it on to the camelid vet discussion group... The animals that are severely affected do seem to be overwhelmed by it with large amounts of fluid in the lung tissue. That was noted by some vets at university hospitals. In my experience lung sounds are not that useful in assessing the amount of lung involvement in camelids. I have seen animals that sounded fairly clear but had very firm lungs postmortem. Other vets have made the same comment. Fever and elevated respiratory rate seem to be the best indicators of lung damage

Thank you,
Steve Purdy

     Please spread the word. Send any alpaca/llama farms that you have on your mailing list my contact information, and the list of things I need to know. We have been very surprised by the large number in the alpaca community that have not heard about this.

     For the lack of a better name the alpaca community has been calling this virus `snots'. I know a pretty bad name. However, it does describe one of the major symptoms. Keep your eye open for snotty noses and fevers, and your ears open for coughs, sneezes, and labored breathing. Some of the worst have not had the snotty noses and the first sign of trouble was open mouth breathing and/or foaming at the mouth. (The foam was coming from the lungs which fill up, and some have actually drowned from it.)”

     It is obvious from this sampling of emails that there is a problem in many parts of the country and correct information needs to be gotten to as many owners/breeders as possible. The ICI will continue to monitor the situation and will post all relevant updates on the website. The Emergency Alert System is experiencing an IT problem which is being addressed and should be corrected soon. In the interim, please continue to check the website for the most current information or contact any of those individuals, veterinary hospitals and diagnostic laboratories listed above.

Re-printed from the International Camelid Institute

posted November, 2007



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