Suspected case of VSV found in Grand County horse
Colorado is no stranger to the vesicular stomatitis virus, but it appears that Grand County might have its first case of the virus that’s affected many horses along the Front Range.
In an email to its members, the Grand County CSU Extension Office warned of a suspected case of the vesicular stomatitis virus in a local horse. Over the phone, a woman at the extension office emphasized that while the horse showed signs of the virus, the blood work has not come back yet, so no warnings have been issued for Grand County and it is not yet a confirmed case.
Still, local animal experts and the extension office are urging caution, especially given that the horse suspected of having the virus recently attended an equine event in Fraser and the Middle Park Fair and Rodeo began Friday.
“At this time we plan to continue with our fair events until we receive confirmation and hear from the state vet,” officials from the extension office wrote in the email. “We ask that everyone learns about the disease and how to best prevent it. Strict biosecurity measures should be taken, i.e. don’t let your horse make contact with another person’s horse at an event, don’t share water buckets or hay bags, don’t share bits between horses, etc.
“VS is known to be spread by flies, so use your fly spray liberally. Keep in mind that stress can trigger an outbreak, so you should carefully consider whether to bring your horses to events. We encourage you to communicate with your own vets as well.”
If the case is confirmed, there could be a “no travel order” on horses that have been in contact with the suspect case, the email continued.
According to Colorado State University’s veterinary teaching hospital, the vesicular stomatitis virus, also known as VSV, was a major problem in Colorado in summer 2014, when it infected hundreds of horses and some cattle while forcing the quarantine of more than 200 properties, mostly in northern Colorado.
While VSV has not yet been confirmed in Grand County, it is something to be aware of, said Jill Frost, a veterinarian who specializes in horses at Triangle Equine in Kremmling.
She explained the virus can infect equine, bovine, and a number of other large mammals, but it does not affect dogs, cats or people. She said the virus is often transmitted by mosquitos, and it causes ulcerated lesions — or raw spots and blisters — at the animal’s muzzle, gums, tongue and ears.
According to CSU, sores can also show up above an infected animal’s hooves, and lameness or weight loss may occur as a result of the virus.
Additionally, flies and midges serve as primary vectors for VSV, which can be passed on through direct contact, such as an infected animal touching noses with another animal, or indirect contact, which happens when an infected animal sheds the virus onto something like a water bucket, trailer or grooming equipment and another animal picks it up from that object.
Horses were the hardest hit during the virus outbreak in Colorado, although it was found in some cows and can infect other livestock animals, including sheep, goats, pigs and camelids.
Once the virus is suspected on someone’s property, Frost said, that property has to go under quarantine. There are no treatment options, but Frost noted the virus is not fatal and, once it’s run its course, infected animals make full recoveries.
While the possible case of VSV in Grand County has not been confirmed, Frost said anyone who finds lesions on any of their horses or livestock animals should contact a vet, who can test for the virus. People should also keep any animals suspected of having VSV away from fairs and rodeos to prevent exposing other animals to the virus, she said.
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