The South Dakota Animal Industry Board (AIB) has reported the first cases of animal anthrax in a bison herd today. State Veterinarian Dr. Dustin Oedekoven has confirmed that a herd of unvaccinated bison in Dewey County was found to be infected on July 31, 2014.

Anthrax/CDC
Anthrax/CDC

Dr. Oedekoven advises livestock producers in the Dewey County area to continue to annually vaccinate cattle and other livestock for the next several years. Statewide, Oedekoven suggests producers consult their veterinarians concerning vaccination of livestock.

Prior to this case, both North Dakota and Texas have reported animal anthrax cases in 2014.

Anthrax is a pathogen in livestock and wild animals. Some of the more common herbivores are cattle, sheep, goats, horses, camels and deers. 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.

It infects humans primarily through occupational or incidental exposure with infected animals of their skins.

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.

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.

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. The AIB says 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. For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page