Animal diseases remain at bay in WYO
As the year progresses, Wyoming has thus far stayed out of the way of the long list of diseases that could threaten the state’s livestock industry, and Wyoming State Veterinarian Jim Logan says, “We’ve had a few situations with some reportable diseases, but nothing that is really scary or out of the ordinary.”
From vesicular stomatitis, epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) and bluetongue to West Nile Virus and anthrax, Wyoming has seen no serious disease outbreaks.
“We’ve dodged the bullet so far,” says Logan of vesicular stomatitis. “We have had six reports of potential vesicular stomatitis in horses in the last few months.”
While all reports were investigated by a foreign animal disease diagnostician and sent to Plum Island Animal Disease Center, none came back as positive for the disease.
“In New Mexico, the last number showed 23 premises that had quarantined animals for vesicular stomatitis,” he continues. “Colorado had two premises that were quarantined.”
All of the quarantined animals were horses.
Logan notes that those numbers represent totals from the summer and some of the premises have since been released from quarantine.
Bluetongue and EHD
“EHD is very similar in appearance to bluetongue in sheep or cattle,” Logan explains. “We have had suspicions of bluetongue or EHD, but none have turned out to be the disease.”
Logan also mentions that the Wyoming Game and Fish Department says that some wildlife have died as a result of EHD, and Nebraska has seen a number of cases in cattle.
“The most notable thing is that Nebraska has found numerous cases in cattle, and that is really rare,” he explained. “It is not something you expect to see.”
Because the virus can potentially affect both cattle and sheep, Logan says that people need to be vigilant, for EHD as well as bluetongue.
“The best thing for us this time of year would be if we can get a good, hard, killing frost,” he notes. “It would put an end to the likelihood of the disease for this year.”
When looking for EHD in animals, Logan says that producers should watch for animals that slobber a lot or get lesions in their mouth, usually on the tongue, hard palate or lips. Animals may go off feed or water as well.
“Wildlife does the same thing,” he explains. “Producers should report any vesicular or oral lesions to their veterinarians. We’re not out of the woods as far as EHD or bluetongue is concerned until it frosts hard and eliminates the insect vectors.”
Because the viruses and vectors EHD and bluetongue are similar, where one exists, the other can be seen
“With bluetongue, we did a pilot project,” Logan explains. “The state vet lab, with funding from the Livestock Board, did a vaccination study, which appears to be fairly successful.”
The study’s small scale was likely not responsible for the lack of bluetongue outbreaks, but did show encouraging results.
“So far we’ve been lucky with bluetongue,” adds Logan.
With anthrax showing up in northeastern Colorado in several locations, Logan says, “We’ve had some potential situations that have not turned out to be anthrax.”
“We checked into anything that was suspicious and have not found it in Wyoming,” he continued.
While producers may be able to notice the disease in live animals, it’s acute nature and rapid course means that infected livestock are usually found dead. Livestock with depression and showing difficulty breathing may just be breaking with the disease, but Logan says finding live animals is rare.
“Both drought and flood years can give rise to the spores surfacing where they can affect grazing livestock,” he says. “People need to be aware that it is a zoonotic disease, and precautions should be taken around animals that have the disease.”
Surrounding states regularly see cases of anthrax, but this year, none have appeared in Wyoming. Wyoming has not seen anthrax for several years.
West Nile Virus
“As of Sept. 13, four horses have been found positive with West Nile Virus,” Logan says, noting that his numbers represent reported cases of diseases. “A lot of data is gathered by the regional veterinary coordinators around the state.”
Wyoming’s nine regional veterinary coordinators work with the state’s health department and the Wyoming Livestock Board to report cases.
“There have been cases in sage grouse,” he continues. “The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has been monitoring for it.”
When looking for West Nile Virus in horses, Logan comments that there are a wide variety of symptoms that can be seen, and severe symptoms are seen only in extreme cases.
“Sometimes the signs are very subtle. Most horses that get infected don’t ever show clinical signs,” he says. “Those that do will be lethargic, and it will affect their appetite. They can also show some degree of neurological symptoms.”
Neurological symptoms vary from a droopy lip or eyelid to inability to stand or staggering when walking.
“If diagnosed, a veterinarian can symptomatically treat with fluids and anti-inflammatories,” Logan says, emphasizing, “Every spring, people should vaccinate their horses for West Nile Virus, as well as for sleeping sickness and tetanus.”
For this year’s animal health situation, Logan comments, “Occasionally we’ll find a non-quarantinable disease that we want to know is out there. We’ve found Johne’s disease and sore mouth in sheep, but really nothing that is super contagious or out of the ordinary.”
For more information on animal health in Wyoming, contact Jim Logan at email@example.com. Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.