Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) officials say that despite additional cases this week, there is no known connection between the recent rash of Vesicular Stomatitus (VS) cases confirmed in 11 horses located at five different premises in three Texas counties since late May. But the sudden appearance of the disease has prompted intrastate restrictions on the movement of animals across state lines and limits international movement of animals from Texas into a number of foreign destinations.
On May 28, TAHC announced that the nation's first VS case this year involving five horses had been confirmed in Kinney County southeast of Del Rio. Those animal were immediately placed in quarantine by state officials. Less than two weeks later, three more horses at two different and unrelated premises in Hidalgo County northwest of Edinburg were confirmed to have VS and were quarantined.
On June 17, TAHC confirmed another three positive cases, this time in San Patricio County near Mathis in the Coastal Bend. Two of the horses were found on a premise northeast of Mathis and a third horse at a different premise about a half mile away. In spite of the close proximity of the premises, state veterinarians say there appears to be no connection between the animals located at the five premises across the southern region of the state.
VS is a viral infection that 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 2-3 weeks. But because of the contagious nature of VS and its resemblance to other diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), 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.
One of the greatest concerns over the contagious disease is the limitation on the transportation of animals across state lines. In response to these new cases of VS in Texas, some fourteen states have already placed restrictions on the movement of Texas livestock.
These restrictions can vary from state to state, In California, for example, all horses, cattle, and swine originating from any state where VS has been diagnosed since May 27, 2014, must be accompanied by a certificate of veterinary inspection and signed by an accredited veterinarian. Exceptions to the rule includes cattle and swine transported directly to slaughter.
The California restriction defines "originating" as meaning all horses, cattle, and swine that initially leave the VS infected state and come to California, or those that leave any state, visit an infected state, and then return to California. Slaughter animals are exempt from this requirement.
Similar limitations have been imposed by Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Vermont.
In addition, some international limitations on the movement of Texas livestock are in place. Limited movement restrictions have been enacted by Canada, the European Union, Russia, and South Korea. A complete list of state and international restrictions are available from the USDA Veterinary Services' (VS) Austin office at 512-383-2411.
Humans can also become infected with the disease when handling affected animals, but this is a rare event. VS in humans is generally limited to flu-like symptoms that last for about a week.
In the past decade, the southwestern and southeastern U.S. have experienced a number of VS outbreaks. Outbreaks usually occur during the warmer months, often along waterways. As a result, certain species of wildlife can contract and spread the disease, such a cervids, including whitetail deer and mule deer. VS has not been detected in Texas since 2009.
TAHC reports all premises where infected horses were discovered are quarantined to limit the spread of the disease. Animals confirmed with the disease have been placed under observation by licensed veterinarians for a minimum 21 days before the quarantine can be lifted.
Animal health officials say VS outbreaks are not unusual and not considered to be a life-threatening condition, but warn the disease can spread quickly between infected animals. Horse and livestock owners are being urged to carefully monitor their stock and watch for early signs or symptoms of the disease and should report those symptoms immediately when they occur.
More information about VS is available in this PDF. Click here.
A USDA APHIS-VS fact sheet is available here.
For current USDA-APHIS VS situation reports, click here.
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