Articles: Press Release
Anthrax Confirmed in Sutton County, TX
Texas Animal Health Commission
Austin, Texas 78711
(800) 550-8242 FAX (512) 719-071
Bob Hillman, DVM • Executive Director
For info, contact Carla Everett, information officer, at 1-800-550-8242,
ext. 710, or email@example.com
Two ranches in Sutton County, Texas have laboratory-confirmed cases of
anthrax in horses, deer and cattle, and laboratory results are pending for
several other sites in the county, where livestock and deer losses have
been reported. Although this bacterial disease occurs almost yearly in
this region of the state,
cases have not been confirmed within Sutton County for more than 20
years. Typically, outbreaks are in Val Verde, Edwards, Kinney and Uvalde
counties, but on rare occasions, cases have been confirmed as far south as
Starr County, reports Dr. Thurman Fancher, director of Area 6 (West Texas)
for the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC).
“Anthrax is under-reported, because many ranchers in this area
automatically dispose of carcasses and vaccinate livestock when they find
dead animals that are bloated or bloody--common signs of the disease,” said
Dr. Fancher. “Anthrax is a reportable disease, however, and it’s important
to know when an outbreak occurs, so other ranchers can be notified to
Dr. Fancher explained that it is common to see death losses in one pasture,
but not across the fence. However, all livestock in an infected area should
be vaccinated, to prevent potential losses. There is no effective, approved
manner to deliver anthrax vaccine to grazing wildlife that cannot be
captured and confined.
Dr. Fancher said that, during the anthrax outbreak, deer owners enrolled in
the chronic wasting disease (CWD) surveillance program are to report death
losses, but they should check with their private veterinary practitioner
before collecting brain tissue from the animal for CWD testing. “If a dead
deer has clinical signs of anthrax, we may need to avoid opening the
carcass,” he said. CWD has not been detected in Texas.
“Anthrax is an ancient disease that occurs worldwide. The first reports in
livestock date back to 1500 BC,” noted Dr. Fancher. “When an infected
animal dies, the ground becomes contaminated with the spores of Bacillus
anthracis bacteria, unless the carcass and soil are purified with a very
hot fire. Even though spores do not multiply or spread underground, they
can lie dormant in soil for decades, awaiting the perfect combination of
weather and soil conditions to become vegetative. Animals then are exposed
to the disease when they eat grass contaminated with the bacteria.”
TAHC regulations require that the affected animal’s bedding, its carcass,
and nearby manure be burned with wood, diesel or gasoline (tires and oil
create too much pollution), to cleanse the ground. Do not open carcasses.
If there is a burn ban in the area, contact the TAHC Area 6office in
Lampasas at 1-800-658-6642 for disposal information.
Livestock on the premises must then be vaccinated and held under
quarantine for a short time, to ensure any anthrax-exposed animals are not
moved from the premises. Laboratory tests, conducted by the Texas
Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory in College Station, are needed to
confirm infection, and suspected cases should be reported to private
veterinary practitioners or the TAHC’s headquarters in Austin at
Anyone handling or burning carcasses, or vaccinating livestock against
anthrax should wear long sleeves and gloves. Exposure can cause a nasty,
black sore that requires medical attention and antibiotics. General
sanitation procedures should be followed after handling livestock, and
equipment used on the animals should be disinfected. Pets should be kept
from dead carcasses or bones of dead animals, which may pose a disease
risk. Healthy animals should be moved from anthrax-contaminated areas.
“Visitors to the area should not be alarmed by anthrax,” said Dr. Fancher.
“Just leave dead animals alone, and don’t pick up shed antlers or old
animal bones. By the time the area’s hunting season begins, the cooler
weather brings an outbreak to a close. If, after an outing, you develop an
unusual sore, see your physician for treatment.”
Actions that should be taken during an anthrax outbreak:
- Properly dispose of animal carcasses by burning to prevent
exposure to other
animals, such as predators or dogs. Remove healthy
livestock from the area.
- Vaccinate livestock if cases occur in the surrounding
areas. Because the anthrax
vaccine is a “live” vaccine, it should not be administered
antibiotics. Vaccinated animals are to be withheld from
slaughter for two months.
- Restrict movement of livestock from an affected premise until
animals can develop immunity through vaccination.