Livestock producers warned of anthrax danger

BISMARCK – North Dakota's state veterinarian says the state's first reported case of anthrax this year should prompt livestock producers to take action to protect their animals from the disease, especially in areas with a past history of disease.

“Anthrax has been confirmed in a Barnes County beef cow,” Dr. Susan Keller said Wednesday. “Producers should consult with their veterinarians to make sure the vaccination schedule for their animals is up to date.”

Effective anthrax vaccines are readily available, but that it takes about a week for immunity to be established, and it must be administered annually. Keller 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.”

“With the precipitation we have had, conditions are right for the disease to occur,” Keller said.

A few anthrax cases are reported in North Dakota almost every year. In 2005, however, 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 www.nd.gov/ndda/disease/anthrax.

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