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Heavy Rains Raise Anthrax Danger

North Dakota state veterinarian issues warning to vaccinate livestock now.

"Producers in areas that have had a recent history of anthrax should vaccinate their cattle and horses as soon as possible if they have not already done so," says Susan Keller, North Dakota state veterinarian."Producers in these areas and throughout the state should be monitoring their herds for unexpected deaths and reporting them to their veterinarians or to animal health authorities."

In 2005 more than 500 confirmed deaths from anthrax were reported, and total losses were estimated at more than 1,000 head, including cattle, bison, horses, sheep, llamas and farmed deer and elk.

Keller says anthrax vaccine is effective and readily available, but that it takes about a week for immunity to be established, and it must administered annually.

"Thanks in part to an extensive educational effort by veterinarians and extension encouraging producers to vaccinate their animals, we had only five confirmed cases last year," Keller said. "Producers should consult with their veterinarians to ensure that the vaccination schedule for their animals is maintained."

Anthrax is caused by the bacteria Bacillus anthracis. Spores of the bacteria can lie dormant in the ground for decades and become vegetative under ideal conditions, such as heavy rainfall, flooding and drought. When animals graze or consume forage or water contaminated with the spores, they are exposed to the disease.

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