A cattle herd in southeastern Pennington County, South Dakota was hit by anthrax recently, according to state officials.

Bacillus anthracis bacteria Image/CDC
Bacillus anthracis bacteria

State Veterinarian Dr. Dustin Oedekoven says that at least 9 adult cattle died suddenly last week in the herd, which had not been vaccinated against anthrax.

Anthrax spores survive indefinitely in contaminated alkaline soils and nearly all areas of South Dakota have the potential of experiencing an outbreak under ideal climatic conditions. Significant climate changes such as drought, floods and wind can expose anthrax spores to grazing livestock.

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Livestock producers are advised that anthrax should be suspected in cases of sudden death loss. Affected animals are often found dead with no prior illness detected. Suspicious cases should be reported immediately to a local veterinarian or to the state veterinarian at the South Dakota Animal Industry Board. Anthrax is transmissible to people and other animals. Precaution and veterinarian guidance should be taken in handling, moving, or disturbing carcasses that are suspected to have died of anthrax.

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An effective vaccine is available to protect livestock from anthrax, and producers across the state should consult their veterinarians regarding appropriate vaccination protocols. Strict enforcement of quarantines and proper disposal of carcasses from livestock suspected to have died from anthrax is important to prevent further soil contamination with the bacterial spores.