Windy weather increases risk of rare eye infection in horses

High winds may lead to corneal trauma that allows equine ulcerative keratomycosis to develop.
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Research from Colorado State University suggests that high winds may contribute to the development of a potentially devastating fungal eye infection in horses.

Equine ulcerative keratomycosis (EUK) typically develops after trauma causes an ulcer or another defect in the cornea, the transparent layer of tissue that covers the front of the eye. In addi-tion to pain and excessive tearing, EUK may lead to vision loss. In severe cases, surgical removal of the eyeball may be necessary.

To investigate whether ambient temperatures, humidity, wind speed and other environmental factors influence the development of EUK, the researchers reviewed the case files of 61 horses seen at the CSU hospital for corneal ulceration over a 15-year period. In 10 of the study horses, an EUK diagnosis was confirmed based on laboratory tests.

Analysis of those cases revealed that the highest prevalence of EUK cases occurred during two seasons, with 50 percent of the cases diagnosed in the spring and 40 percent in the fall. Only one EUK case was reported in summer, and none occurred during winter.

Despite the seasonal var-iations, the only environmental factor found to have a significant statistical correlation with the development of EUK was wind speed, with higher gusts correlated to greater rates of diagnosis. The researchers say this can be attributed to micro-traumas caused when airborne dust particles or vegetative fragments contaminated with fungus