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Death, Taxes and Anthrax

NDSU Extension veterinarian urges producers to get livestock vaccinated against the one certainty they can avoid.

"In North Dakota, three things in life are certain: death, taxes and anthrax," says NDSU Extension veterinarian Charlie Stoltenow.

The good news is that you can do something about anthrax.

If you have livestock, you should contact a veterinarian now about getting them vaccinated. Animals should be vaccinated before they are turned out in pastures. The anthrax vaccination is very effective and safe, according to Stoltenow.

Big risk

Anthrax usually is fatal in cattle and sheep, but it can affect all warm-blooded species, including humans. Animals generally develop the disease after grazing on infected pastureland.

Anthrax bacteria survives in the soil for many decades. Favorable conditions, such as heavy rainfall, flooding or drought, may lead to outbreaks. Rain and flooding can raise the spores to the ground's surface, where livestock graze. Drought conditions can lead to soil erosion, which also allows spores to resurface.

Cases of anthrax develop in the region almost every year. The first case in the U.S. this year was confirmed March 31 in a goat near Del Rio, Texas.

North Dakota had one confirmed case in 2007, compared with five in 2006 and more than 500 in 2005.

"We do not want a repeat of 2005," Stoltenow says. "After the outbreak in 2005, we launched a widespread vaccination campaign and the results of those efforts were a dramatic decline in cases in 2006 and 2007.

Stay alert

Stoltenow offers these anthrax protection tips:

  • Pay attention to flocks and herds because livestock can die from anthrax extremely quickly without noticeable symptoms.
  • Do not move or open the carcass an animal that dies suddenly or inexplicably.
  • Have a veterinarian check any unexplained, sudden animal deaths. North Dakota veterinarians are trained in the correct methods of sampling a carcass for anthrax to prevent exposure to themselves or others. Even though cases of people contracting anthrax from carcasses are extremely rare, it is a deadly pathogen.
  • Consult a local veterinarian or call the State Board of Animal Health at (701) 328-2655 to learn about antrax reporting and handling rules and regulations

See or contact Stoltenow at (701) 231-7522 or for more information.

Source: NDSU Extension Communications

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