By Mike Barnett
A disease that mimics the symptoms of the highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) was discovered in livestock in Reeves County, near Balmorhea, May 19.
The country's first case of Vesicular Stomatitis (VS) since 1998 was discovered on a premise with nine horses and eight head of cattle. Like foot-and-mouth, VS causes blisters to form in the animal's mouth, on teats or along the hooves, resulting in excessive salivation, lameness or oozing sores. Unlike foot-and-mouth, VS affects horses. FMD affects only cloven-hoofed animals.
"It (VS) causes a lot of pain, reluctance to eat, drooling, milk loss and even lameness in ruminants," said Dr. Bob Judd, a Waco veterinarian and host of "Texas Vet News," a regularly scheduled program on Texas Farm Bureau's radio network. "Animals rarely die from it and usually recover with just supportive care in a couple of weeks."
Although VS does not affect food safety, infected livestock are withheld from slaughter until they recover.
"We always launch a disease investigation when blisters or sores are reported in livestock, to determine if foot-and-mouth disease has been launched into the U.S.," said Dr. Max Coats, deputy director for Animal Health Programs for the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC). "Because horses are not susceptible to FMD, we knew, in this case, that the animals had vesicular stomatitis..."
Researchers have determined that VS outbreaks are started by a virus transmitted by ticks, mites, biting midges, mosquitoes or house flies. Following an incubation period of two to eight days, infected animals may develop clinical signs of the disease. The outbreak then can be perpetuated by biting insects that carry the disease from infected to healthy livestock. VS-infected animals can also spread the virus if their saliva or the fluid from ruptured blisters contaminates equipment or feed shared by herd mates. Sick animals should be isolated until they heal.
Judd said it's extremely important that ranchers don't pass off blisters, erosion or sores as just another case of VS: "You could be looking at foot-and-mouth disease and you don't know that until you do the testing. "That's why it's so important that anyone who sees an animal with vesicles or ulcers in their mouth to contact their veterinarian. These animals need to be tested.
"Foot and mouth disease has been eradicated in the U.S. since 1929. If it were to get a foothold in the United States, it would have a tremendous effect on our economy and cattle industry."