It’s B-a-a-c-k! Livestock Virus Returns

Cases are reported in Texas, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona.

Vesicular stomatitis, a contagious virus that afflicts mainly horses and cattle, has returned to Texas for the second year in a row after starting the season in New Mexico, Utah and Arizona.

Texas last year saw vesicular stomatitis (VS) cases at 54 premises in 11 counties before the disease, which causes blistering and swelling of animals’ tongues and lips, faded away. Colorado, which was hit even worse than Texas, has not reported any cases this year.

Until 2014, Texas had been VS-free for five years.

“If you suspect your animals have VS, you should notify your veterinarian immediately,” said State Veterinarian Dee Ellis, DVM, who also serves as executive director of the Texas Animal Health Commission.

“Texas had its largest VS outbreak in history last year, and we must remain vigilant in protecting our livestock industry in 2015.”

The first case of 2015 in the Southwestern United States was confirmed April 29 by the National Veterinary Services Laboratories. The New Jersey serotype of the virus was found in a horse in Grant County, N.M.

Two days later, infections of the same serotype were confirmed in three horses in Maricopa County, Ariz., and in a mule in Kane County, Utah, that had been recently transported from Arizona.

The first case in Texas was confirmed May 18 in Pecos County. Two horses and a mule were found to be infected with the New Jersey serotype. A second case was confirmed in horses in Reeves County.

VS has been most severe in Arizona this year, according to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture report. The agency confirmed 11 infected premises in Maricopa County as of May 18 and a total of 18 places in Maricopa and Yavapai counties where VS was suspected.

The disease is rarely fatal, but the blisters and sores can make eating and drinking painful or difficult until the lesions heal after about three weeks. VS is commonly transmitted through contact between animals and by insects such as sand flies and black flies.

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service offers these VS tips:

  • Separate animals with lesions from healthy animals, preferably by stabling. Animals on pastures tend to be affected more frequently with the disease.
  • As a precautionary measure, do not move animals from premises affected by vesicular stomatitis until at least 21 days after lesions in the last affected animal have healed.
  • Implement on-farm insect control programs that include the elimination or reduction of insect breeding areas and the use of insecticide sprays or insecticide-treated ear tags on animals. 
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