With the recent announcement in Colorado of two horses on two separate premises testing positive for vesicular stomatitis (VS), the Nebraska Department of Agriculture is encouraging Midwestern horse and cattle owners to be aware and take precautions, particularly with animals that may be comingling with other animals at events over the next several months.

VS is a viral disease which primarily affects horses and cattle, but can also affect sheep, goats, swine, llamas and alpacas. The disease is characterized by fever and the formation of blister-like lesions in the mouth and on the dental pad, tongue, lips, nostrils, hooves and teats. When the blisters break, there is usually salivation and nasal discharge. And, as a result of these painful lesions, infected animals may refuse to eat and drink, which can lead to weight loss. There are no USDA-approved vaccines for VS.

The primary way the virus is transmitted is from biting insects like black flies, sand flies and midges, so animal owners should consider treatments to reduce insects where animals are housed. VS can also be spread by nose-to-nose contact between animals. The virus itself usually runs its course in five to seven days, and it can take up to an additional seven days for the infected animal to recover from the symptoms. Colorado, New Mexico and Texas all have confirmed VS cases at this time.

NDA has importation orders in place to help prevent the spread of VS into Nebraska and other states. If you are considering moving an animal into Nebraska from an affected state, please call 402-471-2351 to learn more about the importation order.

“Protecting the health and safety of Nebraska’s animals is of the utmost importance in the state,” said state veterinarian Dr. Dennis Hughes. “Vesicular Stomatitis resembles Foot-and-Mouth Disease in the early stages, and I ask that all producers continue to be vigilant in importing animals into Nebraska.”

The horses in Colorado that tested positive for VS have been placed under quarantine and will remain under quarantine until at least 14 days after the onset of lesions in the last affected animal on the premises.

Although humans can become infected when handling the affected animals, it rarely occurs. To avoid human exposure, people should use personal protective measures when handling affected animals.

For more information on VS, visit: http://www.nda.nebraska.gov/animal/diseases/vs/index.html.