Less than two weeks after Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) officials reported the nation's first cases of Vesicular Stomatitus (VS) this year after five horses in Kinney County were confirmed with the disease, three more VS cases have been confirmed in horses in Hidalgo County near Edinburg.
The latest cases involve two horses on a single premise about 24 miles northwest of Edinburg and a third horse on a different premise three miles northwest of Edinburg. Texas Animal Health officials say the VS incidents at the two ranches are not related. The second case of VS in the nation was reported on June 5 and the third case was reported June 9. All three of the new cases tested positive for the New Jersey serotype, the same as the first five horses near Del Rio.
Texas Animal Health Commission veterinarians have quarantined the two new premises following confirmation of VS. They report infected horses will be monitored by regulatory veterinarians until all lesions have healed and a decision is made to release the quarantine, a minimum of 21 days. TAHC reports there is no known exposure to other horses around the state or at any equine events.
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Vesicular stomatitis is a viral disease that primarily affects horses and cattle. Humans can become infected with the disease when handling affected animals, but this is a rare event. In the past decade the Southwestern and Western United States experienced a number of VS outbreaks, which usually occur during the warmer months, often along waterways.
Certain species of wildlife, such as cervids, including whitetail deer and mule deer, can contract and spread the disease. Early symptoms including blisters, erosions in the mouth, excessive salivation, or crusty sores around an animal’s muzzle, teats or hooves bring to mind the dreaded and highly contagious foreign animal virus, Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD).
FMD has not been detected in the U.S. since 1929, but animal health officials and ranchers remain on guard for an accidental or intentional introduction of the disease. Although VS mimics the disease signs of FMD, VS is endemic, or naturally occurring in the U.S., and outbreaks occur sporadically. Unlike FMD, VS can affect horses.
Several states have provided the TAHC with information on enhanced entry requirements they are imposing on Texas livestock (including horses) due to the recently confirmed VS cases in Texas. For information about these movement restrictions, contact the state or country of destination and/or visit http://www.tahc.texas.gov/news/2014-06-05_StateRestrictionsOnTX_VS.pdf .
Researchers have determined that outbreaks initially are started by a virus transmitted by arthropods, black flies and blood-feeding insects. Infected animals also can spread the virus when their saliva or the fluid from ruptured blisters contaminates feed, water or hay shared with herd mates.
Isolate sick animals
Sick animals should be isolated and may need supportive care to prevent a secondary infection where blisters have broken. Painful lesions also can form around animals’
hooves, resulting in temporary lameness.
Ranchers, veterinarians and others who handle sick animals should wear rubber or latex gloves as a biosecurity measure to prevent the spread of disease to other animals, or to themselves. In rare instances, humans can contract VS and develop a flu-like illness that lasts four to seven days.
Even with the best defensive measures, VS could infect an entire herd; however, these tips may help protect livestock:
- Control biting flies
- Keep equine animals stalled or under a roof at night to reduce exposure to flies
- Keep stalls clean
- Feed and water stock from individual buckets
- Disinfect borrowed equipment or tools prior to using them on your premises
- Don’t visit a ranch that’s under quarantine for VS. Wait until the animals have healed.