The Minnesota Board of Animal Health reminds livestock producers and veterinarians to be on the lookout for cases of anthrax, especially after recent confirmed cattle deaths from anthrax in South Dakota. Anthrax is caused by a spore-forming bacterium called Bacillus anthracis, which can emerge in greater concentrations after rain storms, flooding or excavation. Anthrax usually occurs in Minnesota in mid to late summer and is primarily seen in livestock grazing on pasture. Ruminants, like cattle, sheep and goats are at greatest risk of contracting the spores.
“Producers who want to take proactive measures to protect their livestock should contact their herd veterinarian to talk about annual anthrax vaccinations,” said Dr. Stacey Schwabenlander, who oversees the Board’s cattle programs. “Something to also keep in mind is that this disease is an environmental threat and is not spread via animal to animal contact.”
Most animals may succumb to the disease before any clinical signs appear and animals on pasture that die suddenly or are found dead should be examined by a veterinarian to determine if anthrax is a potential cause of death. Veterinarians should not conduct a field necropsy (opening and examination of the carcass) if anthrax is suspected, but should take appropriate samples for diagnostic testing. Exposing anthrax bacteria to the air by opening up a carcass will cause the bacteria to form spores, which further contaminate the environment where the animal was found. The spores can survive many years in soils before being ingested or exposing other animals to the bacteria.
The last confirmed case of anthrax in Minnesota was in June 2013. Since the year 2000, anthrax has only been found in northwestern Minnesota. Anthrax is a reportable disease in Minnesota and all confirmed cases must be reported to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. People are susceptible to this disease and should contact their health care provider if concerned about their health or exposure.
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