For the first time this year, anthrax has been reported in cattle in South Dakota. State Veterinarian Dr. Dustin Oedekoven has confirmed that 8 cows died from a herd of 87 unvaccinated cattle in Clark County.
The Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory at SDSU confirmed the disease from samples submitted over the weekend.
Anthrax is an economically devastating disease for the livestock industry. Anthrax is a bacterial pathogen in livestock and wild animals. Some of the more common herbivores are cattle, sheep,goats, horses, camels and deer. Anthrax is a very serious disease of livestock because it can potentially cause the rapid loss of a large number of animals in a very short time. Affected animals are often found dead with no illness detected.
When conditions become favorable, the spores germinate into colonies of bacteria. An example would be a grazing cow ingests spores that in the cow, germinate, grow spread and eventually kill the animal. Anthrax is caused by the bacterium, Bacillus anthracis. This spore forming bacteria can survive in the environment for years because of its ability to resist heat, cold, drying, etc. This is usually the infectious stage of anthrax.
Anthrax spores survive indefinitely in contaminated soil, and much of South Dakota has the potential of experiencing an outbreak. Significant climate change, such as drought, floods, and winds, can expose anthrax spores to grazing livestock. Alkaline soils, high humidity and high temperatures present conditions for anthrax spores to vegetate and become infectious to grazing livestock.
The bacteria will form spores in the carcass and then return to the soil to infect other animals. The vegetative form is rarely implicated in transmission. Strict enforcement of quarantines and proper burning and burying of carcasses from livestock suspected to have died from anthrax is important to prevent further soil contamination with the bacterial spores.
There are no reports of person-to-person transmission of anthrax. People get anthrax by handling contaminated animal or animal products, consuming undercooked meat of infected animals and more recently, intentional release of spores.
There are three types of human anthrax with differing degrees of seriousness: cutaneous, gastrointestinal and inhalation.