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Vesicular Stomatitis causing quarantines in Montana

September 20, 2005     E-mail this page to a friend!

Anthrax, West Nile Virus, and vesicular stomatitis are all making headlines in the Northwest region this year. Montana is reporting cases of all three. The one affecting horseracing in the state and nearby Whoop-Up Downs in Lethbridge, however, is vesicular stomatitis due to the number of confirmed cases and the need to quarantine animals to prevent its spread.

Animals are quarantined on the premises where the virus is discovered for 21-days after all lesions heal in affected animals. Travel between counties is not affected. However, border crossing from Montana to Canada is closed for livestock transport.

Ben Carlson, director of racing at Yellowstone Downs in Billings, said the effect of the virus on the live race meet currently underway at the MetraPark oval was probably a wash. Some horses that would normally be shipped to Lethbridge are at Yellowstone Downs instead, while there were other horsemen who probably opted not to send their horses to the Yellowstone Downs meet this year.

Any horsemen wishing to transport horses across state lines needs to be aware of the state guidelines where animals are being shipped.

“If you’re exporting, you need to contact the State Veterinarian’s office of the state you are transporting to,” said Karen Cooper, Public Information Officer for the State of Montana.

As of mid-September, a total of 38 premises for vesicular stomatitis had been reported in Montana with 35 of those remaining under quarantine. There were no cases of the virus in the state last year. The first confirmed case in 2005 was reported August 10 in a horse in Yellowstone County. Horses on four additional premises were confirmed positive in Yellowstone County by August 17.

Vesicular stomatitis is a viral disease characterized by fever, vesicles, and subsequent blisters. The vesicles form on the mouth, tongue, lips, feet, teats, and mammary glands of affective animals. These vesicles or blisters tend to be large and very painful.

The virus affects a wide range of hosts. It primarily affects cattle, horses, and swine. This disease occasionally affects sheep and goats. Many species of wild animals, including deer, bobcats, goats, raccoons, and monkeys, have been affected. Humans can also become infected with vesicular stomatitis when handling affected animals.

The current Fall Meeting at Whoop-Up Downs was affected in that horsemen from Montana that traditionally attend the meet were unable to cross the border with their horses unless they traveled to another state and opted to wait out the 21-day quarantine period there. Dot Stein, racetrack manager at Whoop-Up Downs, said a handful of horsemen did follow that procedure, but the usual number of horsemen from the area which attend the fall meet at Lethbridge were simply not able to attend the current meeting.

“We did have an over-abundance of stall applications the last two years, so we were able to fill our stalls,” Stein said. “We do miss the Montanans, I want you to know that,” she added. “The Mel Berkrams and the bunch that have supported us for ten years, we have missed them.”

On September 1, the American Quarter Horse Association, working with its affiliates in South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Nebraska, Wyoming, Alberta and Saskatchewan, announced that the Region Two Experience scheduled for September 29-October 2, at the Central States Fairgrounds in Rapid City, South Dakota, has been postponed until spring of 2006.

The Region Two Experience Committee met via conference call on August 31 to discuss the Experience and how it has been affected by vesicular stomatitis cases reported in the northern United States. For these reasons and AQHA’s continued concern for the safety and welfare of the American Quarter Horse, the decision was made to postpone the Experience.

The Montana Quarter Horse Association Autumn Classic Horse Show in Lewistown September 16-18 was also cancelled due to concerns with vesicular stomatitis. This was to be the final show of the season.