Vesicular Stomatitis (VCV) is a viral disease that primarily affects horses and cattle and occasionally swine, sheep, goats, llamas and alpacas. According to the USDA, “The agent that causes vesicular stomatitis, VSV, has a wide host range and can occasionally infect sheep and goats. In affected livestock, VSV causes blister-like lesions to form in the mouth and on the dental pad, tongue, lips, nostrils, hooves, and teats. These blisters swell and break, leaving raw tissue that is so painful that infected animals generally refuse to eat and drink and show signs of lameness. Severe weight loss usually follows, and in dairy cows a severe drop in milk production commonly occurs. Affected dairy cattle can appear to be normal and will continue to eat about half of their feed intake.”
Runnels County Extension agent Marty Vahlenkamp spoke about the outbreak in an interview, “VCV pops up from time to time, usually in the summer months. It’s a virus like the common cold. It’s going to run its course like any virus.” The virus is primarily spread by insects, “One of the ways it is spread is through flies. Open lesions attract flies. They land on the lesion and then fly off to other places. It can also be transmitted from animal-to-animal.”
The lesions are the only way to tell if your animal is infected, “You can tell the animal is infected when lesions appear and you can get it confirmed with a blood test. If you see any animals with a lesion, you need to get your veterinarian involved.“
The disease can also spread to wildlife, such as deer and feral hogs, as well as humans, “If you have a confirmed case, you’ll need to treat it. But, as an individual, you’ll want to wear protective equipment such as gloves,” Vahlenkamp advised.
So far there are confirmed cases in Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. There are some counties in west Texas with confirmed cases. The numbers indicate the number of confirmed cases. The counties in Texas include Taylor County (1), Tom Green County (3) and Coleman County (3). Other counties in Texas with confirmed cases are Bastrop (6), Brown (2), Caldwell (2), and Palo Pinto (4). The total number of counties with confirmed cases is 27. There have been no cases in Runnels County at this time but it is confirmed in some surrounding counties.
The outbreak has caused the cancellations of roping events and play days throughout the affected counties. There are numerous unconfirmed reports that are waiting on blood tests to confirm.
Vahlenkamp recommends several steps for protecting your livestock, “If you’re bringing in new horses or other livestock, you need to separate them and keep them quarantined for 21 days. This is a good practice to use any time you’re bringing in new animals. Reduce the number of flies. If you go to events or other places, don’t let your horses drink out of community water troughs. Disinfect any equipment that you use. Even though there are no confirmed cases in Runnels County, it’s reasonable to think that there is the potential for it to be here. Going to shows and events in infected counties can increase the risk that your animal might catch it. Event managers need to look at the risk and decide whether or not to have their event. Awareness specifically in the horse industry is key to containing the virus.”
The Texas Animal Health Commission and the USDA are posting regular updates on their social media pages and releasing statements via their respective websites.