Thu, 21 Jun 2001 16:12:47 -0500
carla everett email@example.com
For info, contact Carla Everett, information officer,
at 1-800-550-8242, ext. 710, or
Texas Animal Health Commission
Box l2966 *Austin, Texas 78711
FAX (512) 719-0719
Linda Logan, DVM, PhD* Executive Director
For Immediate Release--
First Cases of Anthrax in 2001 Reported in Uvalde and Val Verde Counties;
Producers in Area Urged to Vaccinate
Two cases of anthrax have been confirmed in deer from Uvalde and Val Verde Counties in Southwest
Texas, and livestock health officials are urging producers in the area to consult their private veterinary
practitioners about vaccinating livestock against this disease that resurfaces periodically. Many long-time
ranchers in the area have experienced sporadic outbreaks and routinely inoculate their livestock against this
disease that is weather-dependent and can develop during warm spring and summer months.
"Anthrax is caused by Bacillus anthracis, a spore-forming bacteria. The disease often occurs after we have
periods of wet, cool weather followed by a several weeks of hot and dry conditions," explained Dr. Dan
Baca, a veterinary epidemiologist with the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC), the state's livestock
health regulatory agency. "When livestock graze in an affected pasture, they can ingest the spores that are on
the grass or ground. Historically, most of Texas' cases each year occur in a triangle bounded by Uvalde,
Ozona and Eagle Pass."
The triangular area takes in portions of Crockett, Val Verde, Sutton, Edwards, Kinney, Uvalde and
Maverick counties. However, if conditions are right, cases could
occur anywhere in Texas, stated Dr. Baca. In l997, cases were confirmed in Edwards, Val Verde, Terrell,
Webb, Starr and Uvalde counties. An anthrax case in l997 also was confirmed in Parker County, in north
Dr. Baca said ranches with confirmed cases are quarantined until at least 10 days after all livestock are
vaccinated, and after proper disposal of all carcasses. "By halting the movement of animals, any livestock
exposed or incubating the disease will not spread infection to other ranches," he said. "It's not unusual for
one premise to have livestock losses, while livestock on an adjacent ranch remain healthy."
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, Dr. Baca said that
suspected cases also are to be reported to the TAHC at 1-800-550-8242. A veterinarian is available to
take calls 24 hours a day. If outbreaks occur in dairy animals, Dr. Baca advised producers to call the TAHC
immediately for assistance to prevent potential human exposure through milk products.
Signs of the disease in livestock and deer can include sudden death, rapid bloating of the carcass, and blood
oozing from body openings. "After talking with several ranchers, we're assuming a number of suspected
cases occur each year, but are not reported," he said.
To prevent contaminating the ground with anthrax spores which can remain dormant
for years, Dr. Baca said TAHC regulations require that the property or livestock owner thoroughly burn
carcasses of animals that may have died from anthrax. The animal's bedding, manure and the surrounding soil
also should be burned. This keeps predators or wild pigs, coyotes or dogs from being exposed to the
disease. Because anthrax strikes during dry periods, he said carcass disposal can pose its own dangers, so
precautions must be taken to keep the fires from 'getting out of hand.' To avoid spreading spores, he said the
TAHC recommends that carcasses be burned where they lay.
Dr. Baca also advised producers to wear long sleeves and gloves when handling the carcasses or when
working or vaccinating livestock to avoid contaminating any sores or scratches on arms or hands. General
sanitation procedures should be followed after handling livestock, and equipment used on the animals should
be disinfected. Pets should be kept away from dead carcasses. Bones of dead animals may also pose a
disease threat. Healthy animals should be moved from anthrax-contaminated areas.
"It is possible for ranchers to contract a skin form of anthrax, so if any wounds appear to be infected, see
your physician for appropriate antibiotic treatment," he said.
"Although movies and popular mythology portay anthrax as an invariably fatal human disease threat, the
often fatal pulmonary form of the disease is nearly non-existent in
developed countries. Producers may want to talk with their physician or contact the Texas Department of
Health if they have human health questions."
"Hunters often ask about anthrax, and by the time hunting season starts, cool weather usually puts an end to
any cases," said Dr. Baca. "However, my best advice always is to shoot only healthy-looking animals. By
the time an animal displays signs of anthrax that can include staggering, trembling or convulsions, death is
Dr. Baca said several steps need to be taken when anthrax occurs:
1. Properly dispose of animal carcasses by burning to prevent exposure to other
animals, such as predators or dogs. Remove healthy livestock from the area.
2. Vaccinate livestock if cases occur in the surrounding areas. Because the anthrax vaccine is a "live"
vaccine, it should not be administered concurrently with antibiotics. Vaccinated animals are to be withheld
from slaughter for two months.
3. Restrict movement of livestock from an affected premise until
animals can develop immunity through vaccination.