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Second Anthrax Case Warrants Vigilance

The NDSU Extension veterinarian is warning livestock producers to be on the lookout for anthrax.

A second case of anthrax in the Red River Valley drainage system this year means North Dakota livestock producers need to be vigilant, North Dakota State University Extension Service veterinarian Charlie Stoltenow warns.

South Dakota reported the first 2007 case in late April and Minnesota reported the second in early July. Neither of these animals was vaccinated.

Cases of anthrax develop in the region almost every year, but the occurrence is very unpredictable and highly dependant on environmental conditions.

“In our experience, these wet, then dry, hot weather pattern cycles set up environmental conditions that favor the occurrence of anthrax in the region,” Stoltenow says. “We do not want a repeat of 2005.”

More than 500 confirmed cases of anthrax were reported in North Dakota in 2005. Estimates are the disease killed more than 1,000 animals in the state that year. Most were cattle, but horses, bison and other ruminants also died. In comparison, 2006 was a very quiet year for anthrax, with just five confirmed cases.

Cattle can die from anthrax extremely fast. They look normal one day and are dead the next.

“Pay attention to your flocks and herds,” Stoltenow advises producers.

Anyone who suspects a case of anthrax should not move the carcass or open it. Producers should have a veterinarian check any unexplained sudden deaths. North Dakota veterinarians are trained in how to sample a carcass for anthrax and prevent exposure to themselves or others. Even though cases of people contracting anthrax from carcasses are extremely rare, anthrax is a deadly pathogen.

Producers who have a positive case of anthrax have a number of ways to prevent further losses in their herd through vaccination and treatment, and to dispose of the carcasses. North Dakota has specific rules and requirements for the reporting and disposal of cases of anthrax. Stoltenow urges producers to consult with their local veterinarian. Questions also can be directed to the State Board of Animal Health at (701) 328-2655.

To prevent livestock from getting anthrax, all herds should be vaccinated, Stoltenow says.

Anthrax is a concern because it can be a long-term problem. Spores of the bacteria that cause it can survive in the soil for many decades. Favorable conditions, such as heavy rainfall, flooding or drought, may make the disease more widespread. Rain and flooding can raise the spores to the ground’s surface, where livestock graze. Drought conditions can lead to soil erosion, which also allows spores to resurface.

For the latest information on anthrax, check out the NDSU Extension publication at http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/ansci/beef/v561w.htm or contact Stoltenow at (701) 231-7522 or mailto:charles.stoltenow@ndsu.edu.

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Charlie Stoltenow, (701) 231-7522, charles.stoltenow@ndsu.edu
Editor:Ellen Crawford, (701) 231-5391, ellen.crawford@ndsu.edu
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