Agriculture officials and the state veterinarian are advising livestock producers to ensure animals are vaccinated against anthrax, a lethal bacterial infection in animals and humans caused by Bacillus anthracis.


In a North Dakota Department of Agriculture news release published July 3, state veterinarian Dr. Susan Keller said, “Anthrax has been confirmed in a Barnes County beef cow and 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 that it takes about a week for immunity to be established, and it must administered annually.

Animal anthrax is not unheard of in North Dakota with several cases reported annually in a variety of livestock and wild animals to include cattle, bison, horses, sheep, llamas and farmed deer and elk.

The North Dakota animal anthrax case follows just days after The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) reported an antthrax case in a goat in Kinney County.

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.

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