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Vesicular stomatitis

Vesicular stomatitis is a notifiable disease

Under Queensland legislation, if you suspect the presence of any vesicular disease in pigs, you must report it to Biosecurity Queensland.

Call us  13 25 23 or
Emergency Disease Watch Hotline  1800 675 888



Vesicular stomatitis (VS) is caused by a virus belonging to the family Rhabdoviridae.


VS is an infectious viral disease of cattle, horses, pigs and people. The disease in animals is characterised by blisters in the mouth and on the feet and teats, clinically indistinguishable from those of foot and mouth disease (FMD). Rapid identification of the virus is essential to rule out the presence of FMD, although the involvement of horses would indicate that vesicular stomatitis is the most likely cause of the disease.

Where the disease occurs

The disease is confined to North and South America. Epizootics occurred in the United States in 1997 and 1998. There have been no occurrences in Australia.

The disease in animals

Clinical disease occurs in cattle, horses and pigs. Sheep and goats can be infected experimentally but natural disease is rare. Many species of American wildlife are susceptible to VS including deer, raccoon and skunks.

The earliest signs are fever and loss of appetite. Blisters develop on the tongue, in the mouth, just above the hooves or on the teats, near the teat opening. Teat blisters may worsen and inflammation of the mammary glands may develop and milk production cease. This may be followed by excess salivation, difficulty in eating, lip smacking and lameness.

The incubation period is short, generally 2-3 days. The disease can affect up to 100% of animals but death rates are usually low unless secondary bacterial infection causes complications.

The disease causes significant losses in livestock.

Spread of the disease

Infection is thought to be spread to, and between livestock, by:

  • direct contact between infected and susceptible animals
  • drinking water or feed contaminated with infected saliva and fluid from blisters
  • biting insects
  • flies feeding on infected animals and mechanically transmitting the infection
  • virus on teat cups, harness bits or human hands mechanically transmitting infection.

The virus is relatively unstable and apparently survives no more than several days in premises that have housed infected animals. The virus is sensitive to most commonly used disinfectants, moderately high temperatures (50-60°C), acids, alkalis and ultraviolet light. The virus does not survive pasteurisation. Carrier or latent infections have not been demonstrated in domestic animals.

Control of the disease

The strategy is to eradicate the disease, recognising it could be transmitted by a variety of insect vectors and may not follow normal disease patterns. Eradication will involve:

  • limited stamping out in specific circumstances
  • quarantine and movement controls to prevent spread by infected animals, contaminated equipment and people
  • tracing and surveillance to determine the source and extent of infection
  • vector control
  • decontamination to eliminate virus
  • epidemiological investigations to determine whether insect or wild animal vectors are involved.

Vaccination may have a role but its potential usefulness in eradication is not known.

Can people get the disease?

Humans can become infected with VS resulting in an influenza-like disease.

Further information