Home   News

How to prevent and deal with anthrax

How to prevent and deal with anthrax

Producers should always keep an eye out for this deadly disease

Staff Writer

A wet, cool spring combined with a hot, dry fall or excessive flooding can increase cattle or bison’s risk of contracting anthrax.

“The (anthrax) spores move to the surface and then they'll flow down to the low spot in a pool of water. When that pool evaporates, all the spores get concentrated. … Problems start to appear in July through September,” said Reynold Bergen. He’s the science director with the Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) in Calgary.

Anthrax is a deadly infectious soil-borne disease that livestock like bison and cattle can contract. It’s caused by Bacillus anthracis, which is a spore-forming bacterium.

“Once that spore enters the animal's body, it germinates and essentially becomes a bacterium again. Then it multiplies like crazy and spreads throughout the bloodstream. (The bacteria) enters all the tissues and kills them in a matter of hours. It's really fast,” Bergen told

Areas of the Prairies had a cool, wet spring and some areas even dealt with flooding. So, producers should contact their veterinarians if they’d like to know if anthrax has been in their area before, said Bergen.

Once you know if “you're in an area of concern or you're bringing forage in from an area of concern, talk to your veterinarian about vaccinating. Avoiding overgrazing is a really big step too because this (disease threat) is about cattle consuming soil,” he said.

If you find dead animals that were healthy the day before, contact your veterinarian immediately and remove the other cattle from the pasture, said Bergen.

“It's a federally reportable disease so your veterinarian would have to report it to the (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) but you wouldn't be quarantined. This disease doesn't move. It doesn't transmit from animal to animal,” he said.

Cover the dead animal with a tarp so the spores don’t spread. Wear coveralls, boots, and gloves when dealing with the animal, said Bergen.

“As long as your skin is protected, there's really no risk to the producer or the veterinarian. If you do you happen to contract (anthrax) on your skin, it's relatively easy to treat with antibiotics. If you see an itchy bump show up on your skin after a week or so, and then it develops a black dot in the centre and starts to swell, go see your doctor,” said Bergen.

Follow your veterinarian’s recommendations to dispose of the dead animal.

Because the animals that contract anthrax die, this disease poses no risk to the food chain, said Bergen.

Since this disease is regionally specific, Bergen recommended talking with your vet and visiting the BCRC’s webpage on anthrax for additional information.

PamWalker68/iStock/Getty Images Plus photo


Your email address will not be published