Livestock producers warned of anthrax danger

Created: 10/02/12 (Tue) | Topic: Issues

BISMARCK – North Dakota’s top animal health official is warning livestock producers in areas with a history of anthrax to protect their animals from the disease.

“A case of anthrax has just been confirmed in Stark County,” said Dr. Susan Keller, the state veterinarian. “Cattle producers should be sure their animals are current on vaccinations.”

The Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at North Dakota State University confirmed the diagnosis of anthrax in a beef cow. It is the first confirmed case of anthrax recorded in the state this year.

Keller said an effective anthrax vaccine is readily available through licensed veterinarians.

“Producers should contact their veterinarians to determine when and if their animals should be vaccinated and that their boosters are up to date,” she said. “They should also monitor their herds for unexpected deaths and report them to their veterinarians.

Keller said dry pastures and short grass in some parts of the state are ideal conditions for livestock to ingest anthrax spores and develop the disease.

Anthrax has been most frequently reported in northeast, southeast and south central North Dakota, but it has been suspected in almost every part of the state. The state usually records a few anthrax cases every year, but in 2005, the disease killed more than 500 head of cattle, bison, horses, sheep, llamas and farmed deer and elk.

“Thanks to efforts by veterinarians and extension agents to encourage producers to vaccinate their animals, we saw a dramatic reduction in livestock deaths the following years,” said Keller. “We need to keep up that vaccination effort to prevent another major outbreak.”

Anthrax information is available on the North Dakota Department of Agriculture website at

The bacteria Bacillus anthracis causes anthrax. Spores of the bacteria lie dormant in the ground for decades and become active under ideal conditions, such as heavy rainfall, flooding and drought. When animals graze or consume forage or water contaminated with spores, they can possibly develop anthrax.

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