Thousands of animals are arriving at the state fairgrounds in Pueblo, but fair organizers are taking special precautions amid concerns of vesicular stomatitis.
The number of cases of the herpes-like disease has been growing throughout the state this year. With livestock coming from every corner of Colorado, the fair wants to ensure the animals are healthy through close inspections.
Before any animals can enter the state fairgrounds, they have to be approved by a team of veterinarians. Fair manager Chris Wiseman says, "Everyone right now is required to have a two-day health certificate, a vet check, and then we have state vets and qualified personnel at the gate who will actually examine the animals to see if there's any sores in the mouth."
Vesicular stomatitis has been confirmed in cattle, horses and mules in ten Colorado counties. Most of the cases are in Montrose County, which is home to 14-year-old equestrian competitor Hayley Reed. "It made me a little bit nervous, but all of the cases were pasture cases," says Reed. "The horses had never traveled anywhere, so it wasn't like they brought it back from anywhere else."
Still, Reed says she is being very careful now that she is at the state fair with her two horses. She says, "I just like to keep my horses away from other horses and not share buckets with other horses and just precautions like that to help."
The fair has to examine each animal before they go through the gate because once they are inside, they are co-mingling and in close quarters with animals from other areas. Vesicular stomatitis is mostly transmitted through biting flies, which are plentiful in the stables and holding areas of the fairgrounds. If the disease did get inside the gates, it could wreak havoc.
Wiseman says, "Where the sores occur, it makes it very, very hard to milk the cows. They lose a lot of weight. They don't eat because the sores are in their mouth, and it can cause a horse to lose a tremendous amount of weight."
Almost all livestock are susceptible to vesicular stomatitis, but the fair veterinarians say they are not too concerned about the disease getting inside the gates. The animals at the fair are in their prime, and most owners are doing all they can to protect them.
Any animals that do show signs of illness will be quarantined pending a diagnosis. Experts encourage livestock owners to spray the animals with insect repellent daily, especially around the ears.