Seven states have seen animals infected with vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), which causes blister-like lesions in and around the mouth of horses and other livestock.
Oklahoma State veterinarian Rod Hall says the virus is not common in the state but is often found in regions of Mexico and South America. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, cases have been found in Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri. Hall says the disease is caused by bites from insects like black flies. The spread to Oklahoma could be caused from eggs being laid in water such as the Arkansas River.
“We expect that we're going to continue to see cases, probably going to see a lot more than what we have so far as the summer progresses and those insects continue to hang around,” Hall says.
Animals with VSV have to be quarantined for 14 days, according to USDA guidelines. Hall says the disease is not typically deadly, but cases have to be investigated because of its similarity in appearance to Foot and Mouth Disease.
The last case of Foot and Mouth Disease was in 1920, Hall says. But if it ever came back to the U.S., it would be devastating, according to Barry Whitworth, an Oklahoma State University extension veterinarian for eastern Oklahoma.
“If that disease got into the United States, that would pretty well shut all of your export markets, the doors would be closed immediately,” Whitworth says. “So you would have no way to take any of our beef or pork products out of this country.”
Producers with infections of VSV in livestock and horses could be impacted financially. Rosslyn Biggs, a beef cattle extension specialist at OSU, says the quarantine process could impact ranchers.
“That's going to prevent you from moving, moving your livestock to market or moving to other pastures, for instance, if you operate in different locations,” Biggs says.
Biggs also says countries like Canada could restrict livestock exports, even though VSV is not a food safety threat.
As of July 20, Kansas has the most infections with 83 active cases. Four counties in Oklahoma have infections, with seven cases.