Vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) causes sores on the mouths or hooves of infected animals. Horses are one of the most severely affected species, although cattle, swine and donkeys can also be affected.
VSV can be transmitted by insects or direct contact with infected animals and contaminated objects. It causes sores in the mouth, nostrils, hooves and teats. The blisters swell and break, leaving raw tissue. Animals often refuse to eat or drink. When blisters occur around the hooves, lameness can occur. Weight loss usually follows, and in dairy cows a severe drop in milk production is often seen.
Since VSV is so similar to foot and mouth disease, it should be reported to the Board of Animal Health. Horse owners can protect their animals by avoiding contact with other horses. Horse owners should also voluntarily quarantine their horses from the rest of their animals when returning from rides or events in an area with known VSV infections.
Humans can become infected with VSV when handling infected animals (direct contact). In affected people, vesicular stomatitis causes a flu-like illness with symptoms of fever, muscle aches, headache and weakness. Rarely, humans can get oral blisters similar to cold sores. Recovery usually occurs in four to seven days. If symptoms arise, contact your physician and tell them you have been in contact with animals with VSV.
Use protective measures such as gloves and a mask when handling animals suspected of having vesicular stomatitis. When working with animals, good personal hygiene with frequent hand washing is important in controlling most diseases that can spread from animals to humans.