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First reported case of anthrax prompts warnings from veterinarians

BISMARCK, N.D. – North Dakota’s state veterinarian says the state’s first reported case of anthrax this year is a reminder to livestock producers to take action to protect their animals from the disease, especially in areas with a past history of the disease. The case, in Grant County, was confirmed recently by the North Dakota State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

“Anthrax has been confirmed in cattle in a Grant County beef herd,” State Veterinarian Dr. Ethan Andress said. “Producers in past known affected areas and counties should consult with their veterinarians to review their risk factors and vaccination needs. If producers have unusual losses on pasture, they should reach out to their local veterinarian as they are experienced and trained for this type of response.” The state veterinarian’s office will coordinate with local and state resources to assist producers in dealing with a disease situation.

Effective anthrax vaccines are readily available, but it takes about a week for immunity to be established, and it must be administered annually for continued protection. Producers should monitor their herds for unexplained deaths and work with their veterinarian to ensure appropriate samples are collected and submitted to a diagnostic lab to give the best chance of obtaining a diagnosis.

“Anthrax has been most frequently reported in northeast, southeast and south-central North Dakota, but it has been found in almost every part of the state,” Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said. “A few anthrax cases are reported in North Dakota almost every year. The animals impacted included cattle, bison, horses, sheep, llamas and farmed deer and elk.”

Two cases of anthrax were last reported in North Dakota in 2021. In 2005, however, more than 500 confirmed deaths from anthrax were reported with total losses estimated at more than 1,000 head.

An anthrax factsheet is available on the North Dakota Department of Agriculture website at www.ndda.nd.gov/diseases/anthrax.

Anthrax is caused by the bacteria Bacillus anthracis. The bacterial spores can lie dormant in the ground for decades and become active under ideal conditions, such as heavy rainfall, flooding and drought. Animals are exposed to the disease when they graze or consume forage or water contaminated with the spores.

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