Equis ISSN 2398-2977

Vesicular stomatitis

Contributor(s): David Senter, Veronica Fowler


  • History: first described in the USA in 1920’s as a vesicular disease of horses, and subsequently of cattle and pigs.
  • Cause: two serotypes of the vesicular stomatitis virus, known as Indiana (VSINDV) and New Jersey (VSNJV); endemic to parts of the Americas. Most clinical cases (>80%) of VS are caused by VSNJV. The mechanism of transmission is still unclear but hypothesized to include both direct transmission (animal-animal) and by biting insects, eg sandflies and blackflies.
  • Signs: small well-circumscribed vesicles on the tongue, oral mucosa, teats and coronary bands; signs of stomatitis - dysphagia, hypersalivation; most infections are sub-clinical (10-15% of animals show clinical signs); may occur as epidemic or isolated incident. Clinical signs are most common in adult animals. Cattle and horses under 1 year are rarely affected.
  • Diagnosis: viral isolation from vesicular fluid or epithelial tissue from vesicle, detection of nucleic acid or detection of antibodies within serum.
  • Treatment: supportive, antibacterials Therapeutics: antimicrobials for secondary infections.
  • Prognosis: good.



  • Vesicular stomatitis virus.
  • Horses, cattle and pigs are susceptible.
  • VS is zoonotic where influenza-like signs (normally without vesicles) are observed.
  • Two major serotypes:
    • Indiana - further subdivided into subtypes Indiana 1, Indiana 2 (Cocal virus) and Indiana 3 (Alagoas virus - isolated in a Brazilian outbreak).
    • New Jersey (more common cause of outbreaks in the USA).
  • Member of the Vesiculovirus genus, family Rhabdoviridae.
In cattle and pigs, vesicular stomatitis can resemble foot-and-mouth disease and in pigs can resemble swine vesicular disease. Immediate notification to appropriate authorities of any suspected vesicular disease is mandatory.
  • In endemic regions where epidemics are known to have occurred, seroprevalence is around 30-40%.

Predisposing factors


  • Association with natural hosts:
    • Horses.
    • Cattle.
    • Pigs.
  • Lowland tropical, subtropical forests.
  • Summer.
  • Superficial abrasions/injury to oral mucosa, eg due to rough pasture.


  • Exposure to potential vectors:
    • Biting flies Fly bite.
    • Culicoides midges.
    • Mosquitoes.


  • Virus endemic to tropical and subtropical parts of the Americas.
  • Virus maintained by cycle between biting insects and wild mammals, particularly in wet lowlands and river valleys.
  • Transmission to horse by biting insect → incubation of 2-3 days → pyrexia → development of small vesicles in oral mucosa, coronary band and occasionally mammary gland (near orifice) or prepuce → lesions rupture and coalesce → ulceration and slough of epithelium → rapid healing.
Infection of humans can result in an influenza-like illness.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Fowler V L, Howson E L A, Madi M et al (2016) Development of a reverse transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification assay for the detection of vesicular stomatitis New Jersey virus: use of rapid molecular assays to differentiate between vesicular disease viruses. Virol Methods 234, 123-131 PubMed.
  • Hole K, Velazques-Salinas L, & Clavijo A (2010) Improvement and optimization of a multiplex real time rt-pcr assay for the detection and typing of vesicular stomatitis virus. J Vet Diagn Invest 22, 428–433 PubMed.
  • Mead D G, Lovett K R, Murphy M D et al (2009) Experimental transmisi√≥n of vesicular stomatitis New Jersey virus from simulium vittatum to cattle: Clinical outcome is influenced by sie of insect feeding. J Med Entomol 46, 866–872 PubMed.
  • Wilson W C, Letchworkth G J, Jimenez C et al (2009) Field evaluation of a multiplex real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction assay for detection of vesicular stomatitis virus. J Vet Diagn Invest 21,179–186 PubMed.
  • Mead D G, Gray E W, Murphy M D et al (2004) Biological transmission of vesicular stomatitis virus (New Jersey seroype) by simulium vittatum (Diptera: Simuliidae) to domestic swine (Sus scrofa). J Med Entomol 41, 78–82 PubMed.
  • Sahu S P (2000) Isolation of Jamestown Canyon virus (California Virus group) from vesicular lesions of a horse. J Vet Diag Invest 12 (1), 80-83 PubMed.
  • Hurd H S et al (1999) Management factors affecting the risk for vesicular stomatitis in livestock operations in the western United States. JAVMA 215 (9), 1263-1268 PubMed.
  • Mccluskey B J et al (1999) Review of the 1997 outbreak of vesicular stomatitis in the western United States. JAVMA 215 (9), 1259-1262 PubMed.
  • Mumford E L et al (1998) Public Veterinary Medicine - Public Health. Serologic Evaluation Of Vesicular Stomatitis Virus Exposure In Horses And Cattle In 1996. JAVMA 213 (9), 1265-1269 PubMed.
  • Hofner M C, Carpenter W C et al (1994) A hemi-nested pcr assay for the detection and identification of vesicular stomatitis virus nucleic acid. J Virol Methods 50, 11–20 PubMed.
  • Green S L (1993) Vesicular stomatitis in the horse. Vet Clin North Am Equine Pract 9 (2), 349-353 VetMedResource.
  • Rodriguez L L, Letchworth G J, Spiropoulou C F & Nichol S T (1993) Rapid detection of vesicular stomatitis virus New Jersey serotype in clinical samples by using polymerase chain reaction. J Clin Microbiol 31, 2016–2020 PubMed.
  • Comer S A, Corn J L, Stallknecht D E, Landgraf J G & Nettles V F (1992) Titers Of vesicular stomatitis virus New Jersey serotype in naturally infected male and female lutzomyia shannoni (Diptera: Psychodidae) in Georgia. J Med Entomol 29, 368–370 PubMed.
  • Alonso A, Martins M, Gomes M P D, Allende R & Sondahl M S (1991) Development and evaluation of an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay for detection, typing and subtyping of vesicular stomatitis virus. J Vet Diagn Invest 3, 287–292 PubMed.
  • Sellers R F & Maarouf A R (1990) Trajectory analysis of winds in vesicular stomatitis in North America. Epidemiol Infect 104, 313–328 PubMed.
  • Ferris N P & Donaldson A I (1988) An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay for the detection of vsv antigen. Vet Microbiol 18, 243–258 PubMed.
  • Francy D B, Moore C G, Smith G C, Taylor S A & Caliser C H (1988) Epizootic vesicular stomatitis in Colorado, 1982: Isolation of virus from insects collected along the northern Colorado Rocky Mountain Front Range. J Med Entomol 25, 343–347 PubMed.
  • Mason J (1978) The epidemiology of vesicular stomatitis. Bol Cen Panam Fiebre Aftosa 29 (30), 35–53 VHL.
  • Jenny E W, Mott L O & Traub E (1958) Serological studies with the virus of vesicular stomatitis. I. Typing of vesicular stomatitis by complement fixation. Am J Vet Res 19, 993–998 PubMed.
  • Hanson R P (1952) The natural history of vesicular stomatitis. Bacteriol Rev 16, 179–204 PubMed.
  • Cotton W E (1927) Vesicular stomatitis. Vet Med 22, 169–175 VetMedResource.
  • Oltsky P K, Traum J & Schoening H W (1926) Comparative studies on vesicular stomatitis and foot and mouth disease. JAVMA 70, 147–167.

Other sources of information

  • Geering W A, Forman A J & Nunn M J (1995) Vesicular Stomatitis. In: Exotic Diseases of Animals - A Field Guide for Australian Veterinarians.