Most herpes viruses are parasitic to a specific host species. They are ubiquitous in nature with many species affected by their unwelcome guest. Everyone knows someone chronically nagged with a winter-time cold sore. Cold sores are one example of a herpes virus. Like diamonds, herpes are forever. So, people who suffer from cold sores will do so forever.

The herpes virus of cattle is called infectious bovine rhinotracheitis virus (IBR). Rhinotracheitis refers to inflammation of the nose and trachea (windpipe). Producers often refer to IBR as “red nose” stemming from the blood-tinged nasal secretions occasionally observed from affected animals. IBR is ever-present and everywhere in cattle, especially during the feeding phase of production. And, as a herpes virus, infected animals are infected for life. IBR was first identified during the 1950s in Colorado causing pneumonia. There are six known types of cattle herpes viruses that affect different organ systems. Diseases that occur include pneumonia, conjunctivitis (pink-eye-like lesions), abortion, neurologic disease, and other less common symptoms.

In the case of pneumonia, IBR attacks the cells lining the nose and trachea. The immune system usually wards off the viral attack but some individuals succumb to further disease. The damage creates holes in the physical barrier allowing entry of secondary invaders. The damaged trachea now resembles a sewer pipe rather than a crisp clean portal for oxygen delivery. Once damaged, the specialized cells lining the trachea can no longer sweep foreign material and bacteria up to the mouth to be swallowed or coughed out. Bacteria-causing pneumonia ride the sewer slide to the lungs and hang their shingle.

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