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VSV detected in Arkansas horses

Shutterstock horses in stable
Arkansas Department of Agriculture orders animal movement restrictions for surrounding counties.

Horse owners, as well as producers of other hooved animals, should be on the lookout for a vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) among their animals that was recently confirmed in Benton County, Ark., according to an announcement from the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.

On July 27, the Arkansas Department of Agriculture issued an alert noting that several instances of VSV had been confirmed at an equine facility in Benton County, the announcement said.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, VSV primarily affects horses and cattle, although it may affect other hooved animals such as sheep, goats and swine. People can also become infected with the virus when handling the animals and coming into contact with infected saliva or nasal secretions. VSV is primarily spread among animals through black flies and other biting insects.

The virus outbreak in Benton County appears to be a strain specific to horses, the University of Arkansas announcement said.

Heidi Ward, assistant professor and extension livestock veterinarian for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said while VSV poses a potential threat to the state’s beef cattle industry, this particular outbreak in horses is likely due to the fact that horses are moved much more frequently, especially when county fairs and rodeos are in season. For this reason, she said, precautions must be taken when moving animals within Arkansas.

“Another reason why this is on the radar is that it can infect humans,” Ward said. “People can develop influenza-like symptoms, including fever, muscle aches and headache. It’s zoonotic, so if people suspect infection in their animals, they need to take precautions for themselves by wearing gloves.”

The detection in Benton County is the first such case in Arkansas in 2020. Cases also have been confirmed recently in Texas, Kansas and Missouri that affect mostly horses but some cattle as well, Ward said.

The Arkansas Department of Agriculture has issued movement restrictions for horses in Benton County as well as the three adjacent counties: Carroll, Madison and Washington counties. In order to transport any equine (horses, donkeys or mules) off the owner’s property, owners must have a certificate of inspection issued by a veterinarian licensed in Arkansas and accredited by USDA not more than five days from the date of travel. The department also issued quarantine orders for all animals on the property where VSV was detected as well as animals on all adjacent properties.

Ward said horse and cattle owners should inspect their animals daily and take precautions seriously.

“Always assume when you’re handling your horse that everything you touch could be infectious,” Ward said. “If you touch them, make sure you’re wearing protective gear, especially gloves.”

In its most recent VSV situation report, USDA noted that since the 2020 outbreak began in April, 267 premises in seven states have been identified with either confirmed or suspected cases of VSV, but 142 of those have been released from quarantine.

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