Environmental Conditions Right For Anthrax


The following is a press release from the Montana Department of Livestock:

State veterinarian Dr. Marty Zaluski is advising livestock producers that conditions in parts of the state may be conducive to outbreaks of anthrax, and that ranchers in areas with a known history of the disease should consider vaccinating their animals.

“While there is no way to predict when or where anthrax will pop up, we certainly have the kinds of environmental conditions that have been associated with past outbreaks of the disease,” Zaluski said.

Anthrax is caused by a naturally occurring bacteria, Bacillus anthracis. Spores of the bacteria can lie dormant in the soil for decades then become active under certain conditions, typically after climatic or ecologic changes such as heavy rains or flooding followed by heat or drought. Animals are exposed to the disease by grazing or consuming forage or water contaminated with the spores.

Clinical signs of the disease include labored breathing, rising body temperature, staggering, depression, unconsciousness and convulsions. Animals may die within 24-48 hours of exposure, and animals are often found dead prior to recognition of early clinical signs.

Herbivores, particularly cattle and sheep, are susceptible to anthrax. Horses, swine and humans are less susceptible, although wild ruminants such as deer and elk may become infected.

A zoonotic disease, anthrax can be spread from animals to humans. Human infection is usually the result of occupational exposure involving direct contact with infected animals or animal products such as wool, hides and horns. Montana has not had a case of human anthrax reported since 1961.

Vaccines are effective as a preventive against anthrax, and have been used in areas where the disease is confirmed or suspected. Vaccines are administered by a licensed veterinarian, who must have approval from the state veterinarian prior to use.

“If your area has a history of anthrax, it’s a good idea to discuss prevention strategies with your veterinarian,” Zaluski said. “Aside from historical data and climactic conditions, there is no way to predict if or when it might surface.”

Montana has had six outbreaks of the disease, which is fairly common throughout the western U.S. and Canada, in the past 26 years. Most recently, the disease surfaced in Gallatin County in July 2008 and again in one animal in July 2010. Most of the state’s outbreaks occurred in eastern Montana: Sheridan County (2007), and in Roosevelt County (2005, 1999 and 1985).

Source:  Montana Department of Livestock

Posted by Haylie Shipp


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