Vesicular Stomatitis

Virus spreads among horses, livestock

Vesicular stomatitis now confirmed in eight counties

Mike DiFerdinando
A horse at Wood Run Farm in Castle Rock wears a fly shield to protect against flies who carry the vesicular stomatitis virus that has spread across Colorado.
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When it comes to protecting animals from the vesicular stomatitis virus that is spreading across the state, cleanliness is key, officials say.

The virus, spread primarily by flies, causes oral blisters and painful sores that can lead to difficulty eating and drinking.

VSV has affected horses and livestock in eight Colorado counties, including Douglas County, and 205 properties statewide are under quarantine. As of Aug. 27, there have been 222 properties quarantined, but 17 have been released, according to the Colorado Department of Agriculture's State Veterinarian's Office.

The majority of cases have been located in Boulder and Jefferson counties. There has only been one confirmed case in Douglas County and currently there have been no reported cases in Elbert County.

“The most important thing people can do to guard against it is to practice proper manure management, proper cleanliness with water and feeding and to take precautions against the flies themselves,” Colorado State Veterinarian Dr. Keith Roehr said.

At Wood Run Farm, a horse training and boarding facility in Castle Rock, barn manager Jessica Maher is taking every precaution to protect the horses in her care.

Horses are kept in individual stalls, given their own water and food, a fly-spray system in the barn to kill the flies in the stalls and wear protective capes and masks to guard against flies while they graze.

“Training and educating the staff is first and foremost so that they know what to look for and they know what to do as well as the borders and clients,” Maher said. “I've done bulletin board posts, Facebook posts and emails making them aware of what it is and what we can do to control it.”

Maher said she has received some calls from concerned clients.

“There's always concern, especially since it's been spreading so rapidly,” Maher said. “It is a big concern, but knowing that we're doing the best we can gives us a piece of mind.”

Colorado is the second state in the country to have confirmed cases of VSV this year. Previous cases in 2014 have been diagnosed in the southern area of Texas near the Mexico border and more recently in Bastrop and Travis counties, just south of Austin.

Veterinarians and livestock owners who suspect an animal may be infected should immediately contact state or federal animal health authorities.

Livestock with clinical signs of VSV are isolated until they are healed and determined to be of no further threat for disease spread.

There are no USDA approved vaccines for vesicular stomatitis.

While rare, human cases of VSV can occur, usually among those who handle infected animals. In humans, the virus can cause flu-like symptoms and rarely includes lesions or blisters.

“I would tell people, don't grow weary or complacent if you haven't seen any symptoms with your animals,” Roehr said. “Until we have a killing freeze, which is still probably 60 days away, there is going to be a threat.”

Tips for livestock owners:

• Strict fly control is an important factor to inhibit the transmission of the disease.

• Avoid transferring feeding equipment, cleaning tools or health care equipment from other herds.

• Colorado veterinarians and livestock owners should contact the state of destination when moving livestock across state lines to ensure that all import requirements are met. A list of contact information for all state veterinarians' offices is available at www.colorado.gov/ag/animals. Click on “Import Requirements.”

• Colorado fairs, livestock exhibitions, and rodeos may institute new entry requirements based on the extent and severity of the current VSV outbreak. Certificates of Veterinary Inspection issued within 2-5 days prior to an event can be beneficial to reduce risks. Be sure to stay informed of any new livestock event requirements.

• During an event, important VSV prevention procedures include minimizing the sharing of water and feed/equipment, applying insect repellent daily (especially to the ears), and closely observing animals for signs of VSV.

• If moving livestock internationally please contact the USDA APHIS VSV Colorado office at 303-231-5385 to determine if there are any movement restrictions or testing requirements for VSV.