LITTLETON - At least 201 horses currently have Vesicular Stomatitis in Colorado. It's an infectious viral disease that creates sores in horses.
Lesions are often found in the mouth, tongue and coronary band. Dr. Barbara Page at the Colorado Equine Clinic has seen several cases and is alarmed by what she says is a 300% jump in cases over the last week.
"It would kind of be like herpes, people that have herpes sores on their lips. It's a painful situation. They'll salivate, they'll have their heads down, they won't want to eat," said Page.
Vesicular Stomatitis looks identical to the deadly foot and mouth disease that led to 270,000 cattle being euthanized in the United Kingdom in 2007. Foot and mouth was eradicated in the United States in the 1920's but Dr. Page says the state veterinarian still has to be called in to rule out anything more serious.
"Worst case scenario would be if we did not confirm what the virus is and confirm that this is Vesicular Stomatitis and not foot and mouth and the foot and mouth virus got into this country and we didn't know about it and we'd have lots of loss of cattle," Page said.
Horses actually cannot get foot and mouth disease but stopping the spread to cattle prevents panic. Vesicular Stomatitis is spread by direct contact with a lesion or more commonly by flies.
"Keep your windows closed. Keep your doors closed. Don't take the flies inside your vehicle from that area and take them to the next barn," warned Page.
If you do notice any of the signs, either lesions or excessive drooling, contact a veterinarian immediately. Continued spread could impact cattle imports if restrictions are put in place.
Currently an animal with Vesicular Stomatitis is quarantined for 21 days to heal. There is no vaccine for the virus. Currently 133 premises on the state have quarantined horses.
Humans can contract the virus although it is rare. Be sure to wash your hands after handling any animal.
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