(NaturalNews) A strange disease that leaves horses with raw tongues, oral blisters, skin lesions and other horrific symptoms is spreading throughout Central Texas and Colorado, according to new reports. The spread of vesicular stomatitis (VS), a highly-contagious disease that usually requires quarantines in order to be mitigated, has resulted in the cancellation of several horse shows, as well as major economic losses for some ranchers.
An announcement issued by the Texas Animal Health Commission on July 25 explains that outbreaks of VS have occurred in at least 21 different locations in eight Texas counties, including in Austin's Travis County. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) added around the same time that at least 27 equines were affected, including 22 in Texas and five in Colorado.
Similar to foot and mouth disease, VS typically shows clinical signs that include major swelling; shedding of skin on the muzzle, tongue, teats and above the hooves; and severely painful oral blisters and sores. In severe cases, otherwise healthy animals will simply stop eating, sometimes for days at a time, requiring their owners to put them under quarantine for at least three weeks while they recover so as not to infect other animals.
"It transmits so easily," stated Si Jarboe, a horse trainer from Central Texas, to KEYE-TV News, noting that she initially thought little of the disease. "The flies [from] what I understand are the transmitter."
Vesicular stomatitis leaves animals 'miserable,' say experts
Though the risk of death from VS is relatively small, horses that contract it can take weeks to recover, leaving them miserable in the meantime. And if they aren't eating during this time, then they're losing weight and becoming weaker, which can be problematic for show horses that require strength and vigor to win competitions.
"I was planning on taking three horses and hopefully kickin' some butt and it's not going to happen now," added Jarboe about taking her veterinarian's advice not to bring her horses to a recently scheduled play day.
With dozens of horses across the Lone Star State now having confirmed cases of VS, the risk of their spreading infection is simply too high in some areas. Rusty Edwards, a ranch owner near Bastrop, for instance, has shuttered his facility entirely until the current outbreak shows signs of retreat.
"We have 45 head here and I'm responsible for every horse on this place," stated Edwards to KEYE-TV. "And I don't want any of them sick, so we shut the place down."
Much more deadly disease spreading in Minnesota horses
Meanwhile, reports of an outbreak of equine herpesvirus-1, or EHV-1, have emerged in Minnesota, where at least three equines have already had to be euthanized. At least four other horses, according to the Star Tribune, are being tested after showing signs of the virus, which can cause severe neurological damage, leaving horses unable to get up and walk.
"This is a common virus that's in the horse population normally," admitted Dr. Paul Anderson from the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. "What is a little unusual is this number of horses with central nervous system signs... such as problems with coordination and trouble urinating. Occasionally it gets bad enough where there is death."