North Dakota’s state veterinarian is reminding livestock producers to vaccinate their animals against anthrax. Dr. Susan Keller says that with the precipitation which has fallen in much of the state, conditions are right for the disease to occur.

Bacillus anthracis bacteria Image/CDC
Bacillus anthracis bacteria

“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 it takes about a week for immunity to be established, and it must be administered annually to maintain protection. Keller also said producers should monitor their herds for unexplained deaths and report them to their veterinarians.

Anthrax has been more frequently reported in northeast, southeast and south central North Dakota, but it has been found in almost every part of the state.

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.

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.