July 26, 2018
Officials at the Minnesota Board of Animal Health are reminding livestock producers and veterinarians to be on the lookout for cases of anthrax, especially after the recent confirmed cattle deaths from anthrax in South Dakota.
Anthrax is caused by a spore-forming bacterium called Bacillus anthracis, which can emerge in greater concentrations after rainstorms, flooding or excavation.
Anthrax usually occurs in Minnesota in mid- to late summer, and is primarily seen in livestock grazing on pasture. Ruminants, like cattle, sheep and goats, are at greatest risk of contracting the spores.
“Producers who want to take proactive measures to protect their livestock should contact their herd veterinarian to talk about annual anthrax vaccinations,” says Stacey Schwabenlander, who oversees MBAH cattle programs. “Something to also keep in mind is that this disease is an environmental threat, and is not spread via animal-to-animal contact.”
Most animals may succumb to the disease before any clinical signs appear. In ruminants, signs of the disease include high fever, muscle tremors, difficulty breathing and unclotted blood from any cuts or scrapes. Animals on pasture that die suddenly or are found dead should be examined by a veterinarian to determine if anthrax is a potential cause of death.
Veterinarians should not conduct a field necropsy if anthrax is suspected. However, they should take appropriate samples for diagnostic testing. Exposing anthrax bacteria to the air by opening a carcass will cause the bacteria to form spores, which further contaminate the environment where the animal was found. The spores can survive many years in soils before being ingested or exposing other animals to the bacteria.
Last confirmed case in state was in 2013
The last confirmed case of anthrax in Minnesota was in June 2013. Since the year 2000, anthrax has only been found in northwestern Minnesota.
Anthrax is a reportable disease in Minnesota. All confirmed cases must be reported to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health at 651-296-2942 or your district veterinarian during business hours.
People are susceptible to this disease and should contact their health care provider if concerned about their health or exposure.
If discovered soon enough, anthrax can be treated with antibiotic therapy, according to MBAH. Other animals in the herd should be moved off the pasture or away from the area to prevent further exposure to anthrax. Before returning to the pasture, animals should be vaccinated to protect against anthrax.
Infected and exposed animals are quarantined, so there is no chance of exposed or infected animals being moved into the food supply.
For more information on anthrax, visit the MBAH webpage about anthrax.
Source: Minnesota Board of Animal Health
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