Horse disease confirmed in Moffat County

Vesicular stomatitis is similar to foot and mouth disease

A horse in Moffat County was diagnosed Monday with the county's first case of vesicular stomatitis, a highly contagious disease.

Craig veterinarian Wayne Davis confirmed the case in a middle-aged female horse. This is the 23rd case of the disease in Colorado this summer.

Vesicular stomatitis is a viral illness similar to foot and mouth disease. It gives horses, cattle, pigs and sheep sores and lesions on the mouth, hooves, nipples and teats.

The lesions can become so sore animals won't eat and rapidly lose weight.

The disease can spread to humans, but according to the Colorado Department of Agriculture, human cases are very rare.

Statewide, there are 22 ranches under quarantine for the disease. If one animal is found on a ranch with the disease, the entire ranch is quarantined until three weeks after the disease heals on every animal.

The disease, which is rarely fatal, is spread by flies and direct contact with infected animals.

This is the first case of vesicular stomatitis Davis has ever dealt with.

He said the horse came in with lesions that looked similar to foot and mouth disease. Davis sent lab results to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which confirmed the disease.

Davis said the infected horse will get over the disease "fairly soon."

The disease heals naturally over time, Davis said, but he gave the horse antibiotics to ward off any secondary infections.

Linh Truong, a spokeswoman with the Colorado Department of Agriculture, said vesicular stomatitis is a concern because it closely resembles foot and mouth disease and because it causes rapid weight loss.

"We keep track of it closely," Truong said.

Truong said Moffat County did not have any confirmed cases of the disease last year, but wasn't sure about before that.

Horses can be vaccinated for the disease, but Truong said the vaccinations are not a 100-percent guarantee.

In areas where a lot of horses have the disease, Truong recommends getting a booster shot, but she said Moffat County isn't one of those places.

The vaccination and booster shot are available at most veterinarians, Truong said.

Utah has 46 premises under quarantine, 30 of them right across the border in Uintah County.

A horse show had to be moved from Vernal, Utah to Craig last month because of fears of vesicular stomatitis.

Beau Benson, a veterinarian in Vernal, said the disease is starting to taper off, but it hasn't gone away.

Benson has dealt with about a dozen cases of vesicular stomatitis in horses and two human cases.

In the human case, Benson said a mother and daughter got the disease when a horse sneezed in their face. The mother and daughter are doing fine, Benson said.

Shawn Polly of Craig said the disease isn't something he worries too much about.

"It's like a person catching a cold," Polly said Monday as he loaded his horse into his trailer at the Moffat County Fairgrounds.

Polly had both of his horses vaccinated and said he doesn't plan on getting them a booster shot.

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