It’s Prime Time for Anthrax

With high temperatures and drought, cattle and bison are at a higher risk of anthrax. Two bison deaths northwest of North Battleford, Saskatchewan have recently been confirmed as caused by anthrax, and seven others are suspected. Producers are encouraged to keep a watchful eye and to refresh their memories on what to do when anthrax is suspected.



Anthrax is a highly contagious and infectious soil-borne disease caused by Bacillus anthracis, a relatively large spore-forming bacteria that can infect mammals, primarily herbivores. Beef cattle and bison are most likely to contract the disease because they graze low to the ground, often due to drought or management practices. Infectious spores are microscopic structures that are difficult to destroy and can survive for decades, especially in alkaline soils.

Spores brought to the surface by digging, heavy rains, soil erosion or dried up slough areas as examples, can easily be ingested by cattle while grazing close to the soil and cause infection. Anthrax in cattle has a very rapid onset, lasting only 2-3 hours, so the most common symptom is sudden death.

Contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect anthrax on your farm. For any animal that dies suddenly and unexpectedly, do not move or open the carcass, and cover it with a tarp to help prevent scavenging and disease spread. When an animal dies of anthrax, the bacteria is present in most tissues of the body and if those tissues are exposed to oxygen, infectious spores begin to form.

Anthrax is a federally reportable disease and in some provinces it is a provincially notifiable disease. Veterinarians will collect blood samples to test for the anthrax bacteria. If anthrax is detected, it will be reported to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). The provincial agriculture department may also be notified. The CFIA no longer investigates, tests, quarantines, vaccinates, or assists with anthrax mortality disposal, but some provinces may pay for diagnostic anthrax tests and provide advice on proper disposal and control.

In rare cases, producers or veterinarians handling infected cattle may be infected through a cut or skin abrasion. Symptoms in humans generally appear within 7 days of exposure, and should be treated promptly by a physician.

Learn more about anthrax in beef cattle, including prevalence, prevention, vaccination, and carcass disposal, on our new Anthrax webpage: http://www.beefresearch.ca/research-topic.cfm/anthrax-62

 

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Anthrax

This article written by Dr. Reynold Bergen, BCRC Science Director, originally appeared in the August 2013 issue of Canadian Cattlemen magazine and is reprinted with permission.



Anthrax is a soil-borne disease that occurs sporadically in western Canada, especially after floods or during hot, dry weather. Ask your veterinarian whether vaccination is recommended.

Anthrax is a reportable disease in Canada. If anthrax is suspected,

  • DO notify your veterinarian
  • DO remove surviving animals from the pasture
  • DO try to prevent scavenging
  • DO NOT move dead animals
  • DO NOT call for deadstock pick-up
  • DO follow the veterinarian’s instructions regarding deadstock disposal

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Changes to the CFIA anthrax program

This is a guest post written by Karin Schmid, Beef Production Specialist with the Alberta Beef Producers

Anthrax is a rapid, fatal disease caused by bacteria (Bacillus anthracis) that exist as inactive spores in the soil and can remain dormant for many years.  Animals contract the disease when they consume infected soil, feed or water and spores become active within the animal, causing death within hours.

Initial symptoms include weakness, fever, and excitability, followed by depression, difficulty breathing, lack of coordination and convulsions.  There may also be a bloody discharge, which can further contaminate the soil.  However, due to the rapid progression of the disease, death is often the first sign. Continue reading