The Uruguay Ministry of Livestock, Agriculture and Fishing reported Thursday outbreaks of anthrax in cattle, horses, and possibly humans, in the department of Rocha, in the eastern part of the country.
In Uruguay, anthrax outbreaks occur in the summer months, with a peak in February. Anthrax spores are very resistant, being able to survive for years or decades in the soil, so the disease tends to be localized in certain high-risk areas. High-risk areas are located in low-lying fields prone to flooding, along large rivers (mainly Arapey, Río Negro, Tacuarembó and Cebollatí), in wetlands and along water channels.
In situations of drought and food crisis like this year, the greater contact with the soil can cause contamination and the ingestion of spores of this telluric disease to occur to a greater degree and cause epizootics. In some properties in Rocha, the presence of deaths by Clostridiium hemolyticum has also been confirmed, which is the cause of bacillary hemoglobin, which is an endemic disease that occurs annually in the wetlands of Rocha and that presents with a clinical picture indistinguishable from anthrax. Bacillary hemoglobinuria is not a zoonosis and can also be prevented by vaccination.
The veterinarian should be consulted and the suspected anthrax should be communicated to the regional services of the MGAP, in order to confirm or rule out the cases at the Dilave Laboratory. To prevent sporulation, dead animals should not be opened. It is important not to burn the carcasses (due to the risk of fire), not to skin or move the dead animals and to prevent dogs and scavengers from having access to the carcasses. Nor should bodies be thrown into the water of rivers or canals. Measures must also be taken to avoid the presence of scavengers and ensure proper disposal of dead animals. Remember to take extreme personal protection measures and wear gloves.
As part of these measures, it is recommended to incorporate adequate annual vaccination plans to prevent the most common infectious diseases. The main recommendation is to vaccinate animals against anthrax. After vaccinating the cattle, remember that deaths may continue to occur for a few more days until it begins to take effect, so it is recommended not to change paddock or move the animals until the outbreak stops. It is essential that young animals that are vaccinated for the first time be revaccinated after 15 to 20 days to achieve adequate immunity.
Anthrax is a bacterial pathogen in livestock and wild animals. Ruminants such as bison, cattle, sheep and goats are highly susceptible, and horses can also be infected.
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.
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. Anthrax is caused by the bacterium, Bacillus anthracis. This spore forming bacteria can survive in the environment for decades because of its ability to resist heat, cold, drying, etc. This is usually the infectious stage of anthrax.
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.