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South Dakota officials reported Tuesday that several cows died from anthrax in a herd of 160 unvaccinated cattle in Meade County. These are the first anthrax cases confirmed in the state in 2022.

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The Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory at SDSU confirmed the disease from samples submitted over the weekend.

Anthrax is an economically devastating disease for the livestock industry because it can cause the rapid loss of many animals in a short time. Affected livestock are often found dead with no illness detected. Anthrax spores survive indefinitely in contaminated soil, and much of South Dakota has the potential of experiencing an outbreak. Significant climate change, such as drought, floods, and winds, can expose anthrax spores to grazing livestock. Alkaline soils, high humidity and high temperatures present conditions for anthrax spores to vegetate and become infectious to grazing livestock.

Bacillus anthracis bacteria

South Dakota State Veterinarian Dr. Beth Thompson emphasizes preventative actions. “During the summer, producers should take time to check all cattle frequently and promptly investigate any unexpected deaths on pasture, whether in cows, bulls or calves. With anthrax and many other diseases, treatments and preventive measures are available, and prompt action can help prevent excessive losses.”

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If a producer suspects anthrax, the case should be reported immediately to local veterinarians or to the State Veterinarian at 605- 773-3321. Suspect carcasses should not be moved or disturbed until a diagnosis has been made. “Local veterinarians are excellent sources of information for cattle producers regarding anthrax,” Thompson said.