Vesicular Stomatitis Found in Kinney County, Texas, Horses

Vesicular Stomatitis Found in Kinney County, Texas, Horses

The viral disease can cause blisters and sores in the mouth and on the tongue, muzzle, teats, or hooves of horses, cattle, swine, sheep, goats, llamas, and a number of other animals.

Photo: Brian McCluskey

The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Servicehas confirmed vesicular stomatitis (VS) in five horses in Kinney County, Texas, located in the southwest part of the state. The horses were tested after the owner observed blistering and swelling on the animals' muzzles and contacted their veterinary practitioner. Testing at the National Veterinary Services Laboratories confirmed the virus as the New Jersey serotype.

The viral disease can cause blisters and sores in the mouth and on the tongue, muzzle, teats, or hooves of horses, cattle, swine, sheep, goats, llamas, and a number of other animals. Lesions usually will heal in two or three weeks. Because of the contagious nature of VS and its resemblance to other diseases such as foot and mouth disease, animal health officials urge livestock owners and caretakers to report these symptoms to their veterinarian immediately. Most animals recover well with supportive care by a veterinarian, but some lesions can be painful.

The newly identified infected group of horses is currently under Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) quarantine. Affected and exposed horses will be monitored by regulatory veterinarians until all lesions have healed and a decision is made to release the quarantine (which will last a minimum of 21 days). There is no known exposure to other horses around the state, or at any equine events. No other cases of VS have been identified in the immediate area or elsewhere in the state.

Texas State Veterinarian and TAHC Executive Director Dee Ellis, DVM, said, "Livestock owners should use the best means possible to limit exposure of their livestock to insect bites."

It is thought that insects are an important vector in the transmission of VS. Sand flies and black flies likely play a role in the virus transmission, so controlling insects is important.

"VS outbreaks are extremely sporadic and years may lapse between cases," Ellis said. "The last confirmed case of VS in Texas was in 2009."

Some states and other countries could restrict movement of, or impose additional requirements for, susceptible animals from states having known cases of VS. Therefore it's important to contact the state or country of origin for their requirements in advance if you're planning to transport livestock.

"If you suspect your animal may have VS, you should notify your veterinarian immediately," said Andy Schwartz, DVM, TAHC assistant executive director and state epidemiologist. "VS is not highly contagious to people but it can cause flu-like illness if infected saliva gets into an open wound, eyes, or mouth. People handling potentially infected animals should wear gloves for protection, and talk with their physician if they have questions."

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