It’s been confirmed that 37 sheep in Vellore, Tamil Nadu did die from anthrax infection prompting vaccination of animals in some eight villages in the district, according to Indian media.

Public domain image/Titus Tscharntke
Public domain image/Titus Tscharntke

Between Thursday and Friday last week, 37 sheep died in Keezh Venkatapuram in Nemili block. Blood samples were drawn and sent for testing to the Central Research Laboratory, Ranipet and District Referral Laboratory, Vellore, where the etiological agent was confirmed.

A team from the Department of Animal Husbandry, Vellore arrived for a vaccination campaign of local animals–“We started to administer anthrax vaccine to sheep, goats and cattle in eight villages, covering a radius of 8 km from Keezh Venkatapuram on Friday. The vaccines were supplied from the Institute of Veterinary Preventive Medicine, Ranipet. So far, we have covered 2,000 animals, and will vaccinate the remaining in three days,” according to officials.

No reports of human infection with anthrax were noted.

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, Anthrax is a zoonotic disease caused by the sporeforming bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Anthrax is most common in wild and domestic herbivores (eg, cattle, sheep, goats, camels, antelopes) but can also be seen in humans exposed to tissue from infected animals, contaminated animal products or directly to B anthracis spores under certain conditions.

B. anthracis spores can remain infective in soil for many years. During this time, they are a potential source of infection for grazinglivestock. Grazing animals may become infected when they ingest sufficient quantities of these spores from the soil.In addition to direct transmission, biting flies may mechanically transmit B. anthracis spores from one animal to another.

Depending on the route of infection, host factors, and potentially strain-specific factors,anthrax can have several different clinical presentations. In herbivores, anthraxcommonly presents as an acute septicemia with a high fatality rate, often accompanied by hemorrhagic lymphadenitis.

People can get anthrax by handling contaminated animal or animal products, consuming undercooked meat of infected animals and more recently, intentional release of spores.