Vaccinate for anthrax to minimize future outbreaks | TSLN.com

Vaccinate for anthrax to minimize future outbreaks

Dave Barz, DVM

May has finally arrived here in South Dakota and the planting frenzy has begun. Hopefully the weather will continue and there only be a few wet spots to plant around. The pastures are just beginning to grow and soon we will be turning our cow-calf pairs to summer pastures. Before you send your cows miles away to grass it is a good time to think about anthrax.

Every year we suggest anthrax vaccination to our clients and many of them vaccinate religiously. When there is an outbreak in the area everyone gets excited and vaccinates their herds to prevent losses. If no breaks are reported in the area for several years, the ranchers assume over time the problem is gone. This strategy can be very costly because anthrax never leaves.

Last year we had three outbreaks in our practice area. None of these clients had vaccinated and there had been no reported outbreaks in the neighborhood for 15 years. We don’t know the exact source, but speculate the spores were exposed as a result of creek bed erosion after heavy rains.

The anthrax organism forms a spore – like a “seed” – when it is exposed to air. This spore can survive for hundreds of years in the soil and when ingested by a susceptible animal, results in clinical disease and death. When the animal ingests the spore it reverts back to the bacteria and multiplies rapidly in the animal. The animal develops a high fever and usually dies in a very short time. If you see one sick, it is usually dead before you get it treated. These fevered animals head to the water holes and dugouts because of thirst and generally die in the water. These febrile animals shed bacteria and spores from blood which is exuded from their body. This contaminates your water source and sets your herd up for substantial losses.

With our heightened awareness of bioterrorism, anthrax has become a disease of importance. The strain which affects cattle in South Dakota is sometimes transmitted to humans. The results are generally severe sores on the skin where the organism entered through a cut or abrasion. These are treated with antibiotics and regress. The form of transmission most feared is the production of many spores and then these spores aerosoled into the environment in large quantities. This results in the pneumonic form of the disease which may be fatal. Regulation set forth by the Board of Animal Industry for transportation, disposal and disinfection protect both the state’s citizens and livestock from spread after an outbreak.

There is a two-fold reason for prevention by vaccination. First of course is the elimination of losses within your own herd. The second is avoiding the contamination of more land and pasture in the state. Once an outbreak occurs in an area the spores will always remain. Erosion, digging and trenching, even postholes, may disturb a burial site and release the infective spores. It is our duty as good stewards of the land to minimize this risk.

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Anthrax was once thought to be a disease of extremely dry conditions. Now it appears in all climatic conditions as a result of increased contamination of our grazing acres. Visit with your veterinarian about a vaccination program to fit your needs and report any peculiar death losses to them. We can never eliminate the anthrax problem, but careful planning will minimize future outbreaks.

May has finally arrived here in South Dakota and the planting frenzy has begun. Hopefully the weather will continue and there only be a few wet spots to plant around. The pastures are just beginning to grow and soon we will be turning our cow-calf pairs to summer pastures. Before you send your cows miles away to grass it is a good time to think about anthrax.

Every year we suggest anthrax vaccination to our clients and many of them vaccinate religiously. When there is an outbreak in the area everyone gets excited and vaccinates their herds to prevent losses. If no breaks are reported in the area for several years, the ranchers assume over time the problem is gone. This strategy can be very costly because anthrax never leaves.

Last year we had three outbreaks in our practice area. None of these clients had vaccinated and there had been no reported outbreaks in the neighborhood for 15 years. We don’t know the exact source, but speculate the spores were exposed as a result of creek bed erosion after heavy rains.

The anthrax organism forms a spore – like a “seed” – when it is exposed to air. This spore can survive for hundreds of years in the soil and when ingested by a susceptible animal, results in clinical disease and death. When the animal ingests the spore it reverts back to the bacteria and multiplies rapidly in the animal. The animal develops a high fever and usually dies in a very short time. If you see one sick, it is usually dead before you get it treated. These fevered animals head to the water holes and dugouts because of thirst and generally die in the water. These febrile animals shed bacteria and spores from blood which is exuded from their body. This contaminates your water source and sets your herd up for substantial losses.

With our heightened awareness of bioterrorism, anthrax has become a disease of importance. The strain which affects cattle in South Dakota is sometimes transmitted to humans. The results are generally severe sores on the skin where the organism entered through a cut or abrasion. These are treated with antibiotics and regress. The form of transmission most feared is the production of many spores and then these spores aerosoled into the environment in large quantities. This results in the pneumonic form of the disease which may be fatal. Regulation set forth by the Board of Animal Industry for transportation, disposal and disinfection protect both the state’s citizens and livestock from spread after an outbreak.

There is a two-fold reason for prevention by vaccination. First of course is the elimination of losses within your own herd. The second is avoiding the contamination of more land and pasture in the state. Once an outbreak occurs in an area the spores will always remain. Erosion, digging and trenching, even postholes, may disturb a burial site and release the infective spores. It is our duty as good stewards of the land to minimize this risk.

Anthrax was once thought to be a disease of extremely dry conditions. Now it appears in all climatic conditions as a result of increased contamination of our grazing acres. Visit with your veterinarian about a vaccination program to fit your needs and report any peculiar death losses to them. We can never eliminate the anthrax problem, but careful planning will minimize future outbreaks.