Livestock producers warned of anthrax danger

BISMARCK – North Dakota's state veterinarian is urging livestock producers in areas with a past history of anthrax to take action to protect their animals from the disease.

“A case of anthrax in an unvaccinated beef cow has been confirmed in Hettinger County near the Adams County line, the first confirmed case in the state this year,” said Dr. Susan Keller. “Producers should consult with their veterinarians to make sure the vaccination schedule for their animals is up to date.”

Keller said effective anthrax vaccines are readily available, but that it takes about a week for immunity to be established, and it must administered annually. She also said producers should monitor their herds for unexpected deaths and report them to their veterinarians.

Anthrax has been most frequently reported in northeast, southeast and south central North Dakota, but it has been found in almost every part of the state,” she said. “With the precipitation we have had, conditions are right for the disease to occur,” she said.

North Dakota often records a few anthrax cases every year, but in 2005, more than 500 confirmed deaths from anthrax were reported with total losses estimated at more than 1,000 head. The dead animals included cattle, bison, horses, sheep, llamas and farmed deer and elk.

An anthrax factsheet is available on the home page of the North Dakota Department of Agriculture website at http://www.agdepartment.com/.

Anthrax is caused by the bacteria Bacillus anthracis. Spores of the bacteria can lie dormant in the ground for decades and becomes active 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.