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Livestock producers reminded of anthrax danger

North Dakota state veterinarian suggests livestock producers take action after first reported case of anthrax this year.

North Dakota state veterinarian Dr. Susan Keller said the state’s first reported case of anthrax this year is a reminder to livestock producers to take action to protect their animals, especially in areas with a past history of the disease.

The North Dakota case, in Morton County, was confirmed Sept. 2 by the North Dakota State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

“Anthrax has been confirmed in cattle in a Morton County beef herd,” Keller said. “Producers in past known affected areas and counties should consult with their veterinarians to make sure the vaccination schedule for their animals is current. Producers in Morton County and surrounding areas should confer with their veterinarians to determine if initiating first-time vaccinations against anthrax is warranted for their cattle at this time.”

Earlier in 2020, the Texas Animal Health Commission issued a similar warning.

Effective anthrax vaccines are readily available, Keller said, noting that it takes about a week for immunity to be established, and the vaccine must be administered annually for continued protection. Producers should monitor their herds for unexplained deaths and work with a veterinarian to ensure that appropriate samples are collected and submitted to a diagnostic lab to provide the best chance of obtaining a diagnosis.

A few anthrax cases are reported in North Dakota almost every year, Keller said, but in 2005, more than 500 confirmed deaths from anthrax were reported, and total losses were estimated at more than 1,000 head. The affected animals included cattle, bison, horses, sheep, llamas and farmed deer and elk.

One case of anthrax was reported in North Dakota in 2019.

Anthrax is caused by the bacteria Bacillus anthracis. The bacterial spores can lie dormant in the ground for decades and become active under ideal conditions, such as heavy rainfall, flooding and drought. Animals are exposed to the disease when they graze or consume forage or water contaminated with the spores.

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