Horses Owners Updated About ‘VSV’ Concerns In Kansas

Vesicular stomatitis virus, typically referred to as VSV, remains a concern to horse owners in Kansas.

Dr. Laurie Beard, Kansas State University veterinary medicine professor, gave a virtual update on VSV at the Kansas Horse Council meeting in Osage City. 

Dr. Laurie Beard, Kansas State University veterinary medicine professor, gave an update on vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) at the recent Kansas Horse Council annual meeting in Osage City.

The first cases of VSV this year in Kansas were reported in Butler County on June 17. “VSV was eventually confirmed in 26 Kansas counties,” Beard said.

In a PowerPoint presentation, Beard showed photos of the virus infections in horses’ mouths, hooves and ears. She said other lesions can also appear on the sheath and in mammary glands.

“Additional symptoms of VSV in a horse include fever, anorexia or loss of appetite, and drooling,” Beard said.

The virus infects cattle with symptoms like foot and mouth disease including weight loss and decreased milk production. Although uncommon, VSV can also infect sheep, goats and alpacas.

“While it’s rare, humans can even contact VSV with flu-like symptoms,” Beard advised.

Seen in the summer and fall, VSV is transmitted via flying insects. Infection comes from direct contact with sand flies, black flies and biting midges and is associated with water as well.

When a horse has been diagnosed with VSV, Dr. Beard recommended supportive veterinarian care. “Make sure your horse is comfortable enough to eat and drink,” she said. “Fortunately, majority of horses and other species do survive VSV.”

However, it is a reportable disease. “The state veterinarian must be notified there are clinical signs of VSV,” Beard explained. “Testing is required and the farm will be quarantined until test results are completed.

“If the test is positive, that farm or premise is quarantined 14 days after the last animal is sick,” the veterinarian clarified.

Clinical signs of vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) include lesions in a horse’s mouth.

“If you have five horses and only one has clinical signs, after 14 days your farm is free,” Beard said. “However, if you have five horses and a second horses gets sick on the 14th day, your farm is quarantined for 28 days.”

Quarantine only affects the farm where the livestock has tested VSV positive. “Neighboring farms are not quarantined,” Beard clarified. “Those horse owners can take their horses to events around the state.”

However, regulations vary from state to state for owners desiring to transport horses across state lines. “Some states require health certificates. So be sure to have your veterinarian call ahead to verify what state rules are,” Beard said.

“Rules do change fast,” she added.

International travel with horses is also impacted. “For example, you likely won’t be able to travel into Canada with your horses,” Beard explained.

While VSV concerns in Kansas have largely ceased for this year, Beard warned: “Be aware next summer in 2021. If traveling into other states, make sure you or your veterinarian call ahead to find out their regulations.”

Latest updates on VSV in Kansas are available on the Kansas Department of Agriculture website or by emailing Beard: lbeard@vet.k-state.edu.