Multi-pronged Approach To Insect Control Helps Minimize VS Risk

Vesicular stomatitis (VS) is a painful viral disease that causes lesions on the lips, tongue, muzzle, ears, udder, sheath or coronary bands of horses and other livestock. Though most horses recover from the virus on their own, some horses need supportive care to recover.

VS is endemic in southern Mexico and occasionally travels toward the United States. In 2019, 1,144 premises were affected in eight states: Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Wyoming. Thus far in 2020, premises in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas have been affected by the disease.

VS can be spread in two ways: through insect vectors and through direct contact with infected animals. To prevent either mode of transmission, increased biosecurity measures should be put in place. This includes implementing strategies to prevent contact of infected animals and contaminated items like feed troughs, tack and equipment.

Using fly spray, fly predators and other methods to control black flies and biting midges, which are known to carry the disease, is important to protect equines from VS. Biting midges love wet areas, so removing wet leaves and mud around troughs or ponds will help minimize potential habitat.

Though most insect activity occurs in warmer months, midges can be more cold-tolerant and spread the disease even in cooler months. It is not known if other insects can transmit the disease, so it’s important to control insects on multiple levels, including premise, barn and animal level. This may include keeping horses inside at dusk and dawn or using fans to keep air moving; maintaining well-draining footing around water sources, mowing vegetation and reducing the use of bright lights at night, which attract insects.

Applying insecticides and repellents to animals that are outside is important, but they must be applied repeatedly to be effective. Fly masks, sheets and leg wraps can also be helpful, but must cover where VS lesions occur.

Read more at HorseTalk.

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