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Vesicular Stomatitis Virus

Notes from June 22, 2020 Zoom meeting led by Dr. Jessica Hodes about VSV.

WE DO NOT HAVE CASES OF VSV AT WBR. For a current report of confirmed cases in the state, you can find the situation report on the Kansas Department of Agriculture website.

On June 22, 2020, KDEA hosted an informational Zoom meeting about the current VSV outbreak in Kansas. Dr. Jessica Hodes shared some information about symptoms, transmission, prevention, and treatment. I will share my notes from the meeting, along with our current procedures at the barn for minimizing VSV.

About VSV

VSV, or vesicular stomatitis virus, is an infectious disease that causes sores on the muzzles, coronary bands, and ears of infected animals. It can occur in other livestock and humans.

Dr. Hodes said that although the sores are commonly referred to as blisters, they really look more like scaly or scabby lesions. Horses with sores around the coronary band are sometimes slightly lame, and often the sore is at the heel and may be mistaken for an abscess. Horses with mouth sores may be reluctant to eat, and sometimes have frothy drool. All positive cases must be reported to the state so they can track the virus and hopefully limit its spread across counties and even out of state.

VSV has a low mortality rate, meaning if your horse does get sick, it is not likely to die from the virus. Horses usually recover in 7-21 days. They are sometimes treated with an antibiotic in the case of a secondary infection and may be given Banamine, Equiox, or Bute to manage pain if necessary. Unfortunately, horses can be re-infected with VSV, so even if they’ve already had the virus, they do not develop a protective immunity. There is no vaccination for VSV.

VSV is commonly transmitted by flies, so outbreaks are common during the hot summer months. Dr. Hodes expects to see increasing cases through July and August, with numbers declining in cooler weather. Horses can also get VSV from nose to nose contact, from shared buckets, or on people’s clothes, shoes, tools, etc.

Prevention at WBR

We are on a close lookout for any signs of VSV. Every day, twice a day at feeding, we check check muzzles and legs for any signs of sores, drooling, lameness, etc. Dr. Hodes warned that the lesions can pop up quickly, so if you see something we missed, please let us know right away. If we suspect a horse has VSV, it will be quarantined immediately, the owner will be contacted, and then a vet will need to see the horse, test for VSV, and if it’s positive, the case will be reported to the state.

Our fly system is up and running, and will continue to run until at least the first freeze of the winter. If you provide sheets, masks, boots, and/or fly spray, we will make sure it is on your horse every day.

We are making every effort to minimize flies around the barns and pastures, mostly with strong manure management. We clean stalls at least twice a day, and dump the spreader any time it is full. We also clean the arenas, turnouts, sheds, etc. We ask that if your horse leaves manure in the cross ties or arena, please clean it up and take it directly to the spreader. Do not leave any manure in muck buckets or wheel barrows in the barn.

If we do end up with cases, we have plans to quarantine those horses in the small barn. In the event of sick horses, James will do all feeding and handling of the healthy horses, and I will care for the contagious animals. This will limit cross contamination as much as possible.

What you can do to help:

  • · Pick up manure in arena, wash rack, and grooming areas after you ride. Take directly to the spreader

  • If you provide fly spray, label it with your horse’s name, and hang it on the stall, we will spray your horse before we turn out. When it comes to buying fly spray, it seems that you get what you pay for. I like Pyranha the best. UltraShield EX is also very good.

  • Sheets, masks, fly boots are all helpful. Woodard’s has a good inventory right now. We’ve had lots of customers try a variety of fly boots, and it seems the Shoo Fly brand last the longest and stay on the best. I’ve had the best luck with Cashel masks. They seem to hold up well. The slinky masks with mesh eyes don’t stay on well at all and snag. Sheets come in many types and varieties, so it just depends on your preferences.

  • There are garlic supplements available that can deter flies. Dr. Hodes said SmartPak has several good options.

  • Limit your horse travel as much as possible. If you are going to a show that does not require a health certificate, maybe reconsider. If possible, do not stay overnight and tie out at your trailer.

  • Do not share water buckets, feed, hay nets, bits, halters, etc.

  • If you see anything that may be VSV, please let us know immediately!

Fly Prevention Products


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