Vesicular stomatitis virus spreading among Colorado livestock

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A virus is spreading across Colorado, and it’s affecting a lot of livestock.

It’s called vesicular stomatitis, or VS. It’s a virus in the rabies family and it infects cattle, horses, pigs and other large livestock.

It causes ulcers and lethargy in the animals.

Right now, cases have been confirmed in eight Colorado counties, including Larimer, Archuleta, Chaffee, Delta, La Plata, Mesa, Montezuma and Montrose.

In those counties, 53 locations have been quarantined to control the spread.

Up until last year, it had been about 10 years since Colorado saw a VS outbreak.

In 2014, 370 facilities were quarantined after cases were confirmed in their livestock.

We spoke to one of the facilities, which is in Fountain. They said it was difficult to prevent, but luckily, pretty easy to treat.

“I eat, sleep and live with the horses when that happens,” Julie Demuesy, Owner of Dream Catcher Equine Rescue, said.

Back in 2007, she started up the rescue and has been taking in sick and abused horses.

But last October, she had yet another thing to protect them from when the VS virus hit.

“Of the 150 or so horses that are here on the property, we had about 20 percent of the population affected by it…The most serious had full-sloughing of their tongue, the tissue on their tongue. A few of them had to be on pain medication and special diets,” Demuesy said.

And it’s hard to stop the spread unless you know what to look for.

“It’s not very contagious from animal to animal, but it is spread readily by black flies, sand flies and gnats, so if you control those insect-vectors, you can go a long ways in reducing your risk of vesicular stomatitis,” Colorado State Veterinarian Dr. Keith Roehr said.

There is no treatment for VS since it’s a virus, and it normally goes away on its own in a few weeks.

But if the infected horse is very young, old or has other health issues, it could be deadly.

“From what my vet said, it will put a horse down permanently,” Demuesy said.

But with the right care and preventative measures, you can keep your animals safe while the virus spreads.

“You just take it in stride. Treat the symptoms, keep them comfortable and they’ll eventually get over it,” Demuesy said.

Our state veterinarian said if any of your livestock develops an ulcer or sore of any kind on its mouth, nose, belly, or legs, you should contact your local vet.

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