||Anthrax Confirmed in Val Verde and Crockett
It’s the same song, yet another verse for naturally-occurring anthrax
cases in livestock and wildlife in Val Verde and Crockett Counties in
Southwest Texas. A little rain, a lot of hot weather and the invisible,
spore-forming bacteria Bacillus anthracis has resurfaced, putting unvaccinated
livestock and grazing wildlife at risk in the area.
“Anthrax has been confirmed in a pen of deer in Val Verde County,
and in a Charolais bull in Crockett County. We know that that anthrax
often goes under-reported, as we hear of anecdotal reports of livestock
or deer losses without laboratory confirmation. Many ranchers forego the
veterinary inspection and laboratory tests, and, instead, just begin vaccinating,”
reported Dr. Bob Hillman, Texas’ state veterinarian and head of
the Texas Animal Health Commission. “Anthrax cases are not unusual,
but a laboratory confirmation should alert ranchers and livestock owners
that it is time to vaccinate their animals in Val Verde, Crockett and
“Vacationers and hunters get concerned about anthrax, but there
is no need to worry, if proper precautions are taken,” said Dr.
Hillman. “If you travel to an area where an anthrax case has occurred,
avoid touching or handling sick or dead animals, don’t pick up bones
or shed antlers, and don’t swim in ponds or streams where there
are dead animals nearby. The same advice goes for your pets, too. By the
time hunting season starts, cool weather usually puts an end to anthrax
cases. Always harvest only healthy-looking animals.”
Anthrax is a reportable disease in Texas. While laboratory tests, conducted
by the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory in College Station,
are needed to confirm infection, suspected cases also are to be reported
to the TAHC at 1-800-550-8242, where a veterinarian is on call 24 hours
a day. If an outbreak occurs in dairy animals, producers are to call the
Dr. Hillman explained that anthrax is naturally occurring around the world.
After an animal dies from the disease and isn’t properly burned,
the bacteria will lie dormant in the soil. The anthrax bacteria resurfaces
on grass or forage only under ideal weather and soil conditions during
spring and summer months. By the time an animal ingests the anthrax bacteria
and exhibit staggering, trembling or convulsions, death is inevitable.
TAHC regulations require that the animal carcasses, manure and bedding
be incinerated. This will keep wild animals from being exposed to the
disease, and it will also kill the bacteria, preventing another site where
the anthrax can resurface.
Most of Texas’ anthrax cases occur in a triangle bounded by Uvalde,
Ozona and Eagle Pass, which takes in portions of Crockett, Val Verde,
Sutton, Edwards, Kinney, Uvalde and Maverick counties. However, Dr. Hillman
said anthrax can occur anywhere. Among the cases confirmed this summer
are several horses, farmed buffalo and other livestock in Minnesota; cattle
in Saskatchewan, Canada; free-ranging bison in the Northwest Territories
in Canada; sheep, goats and cattle in Turkey; cattle in Peru; sheep in
Russia; and several cows in Wales, in the United Kingdom.
Several steps should be followed when anthrax occurs in an area:
1. Wear long sleeves and gloves when handling carcasses or when working
with or vaccinating livestock to avoid contaminating any sores or scratches
on arms or hands. See your doctor if you develop an unusual-looking sore
on your hands, arms or other exposed skin. Although it is very rare to
contract skin anthrax, this infection requires treatment with antibiotics
prescribed by a physician.
2. Practice good sanitation! Wash your hands after handling livestock
(even if you wear gloves.) Disinfect equipment used on the animals or
carcasses. Keep pets and children away from carcasses or bones of dead
animals. Move healthy animals away from a pasture where animals have died
from the disease.
3. Properly dispose of animal carcasses by burning to prevent exposure
to other animals, such as predators or dogs.
4. Vaccinate livestock if cases occur in the surrounding areas. Anthrax
vaccine is a “live” vaccine, so it must not be administered
with antibiotics. Vaccinated animals must be withheld from slaughter for
5. Restrict the movement of livestock onto or from an affected premise
until animals can develop immunity through vaccination (about 10 days).