Published Date: 2005-07-09 23:50:00
Subject: PRO/AH/EDR> Anthrax, cervidae, livestock - USA (TX)
Archive Number: 20050709.1944
ANTHRAX, CERVIDAE, LIVESTOCK - USA (TEXAS)
A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail, a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases
Sponsored in part by Elsevier, publisher of
The International Journal of Infectious Diseases
Date: 6 Jul 2005
From; Carla Everett <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Source: Official news release, Texas Animal Health Commission [edited]
Anthrax Confirmed in Sutton County, Texas
2 ranches in Sutton County, Texas have laboratory-confirmed cases of
anthrax in horses, deer and cattle, and laboratory results are pending for
several other sites in the county, where livestock and deer losses have
been reported. Although this bacterial disease occurs almost yearly in
this region of the state, cases have not been confirmed within Sutton
County for more than 20 years. Typically, outbreaks are in Val Verde,
Edwards, Kinney and Uvalde counties, but on rare occasions, cases have been
confirmed as far south as Starr County, reports Dr. Thurman Fancher,
director of Area 6 (West Texas) for the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC).
"Anthrax is under-reported, because many ranchers in this area
automatically dispose of carcasses and vaccinate livestock when they find
dead animals that are bloated or bloody --common signs of the disease,"
said Dr. Fancher. "Anthrax is a reportable disease, however, and it's
important to know when an outbreak occurs, so other ranchers can be
notified to vaccinate."
Dr. Fancher explained that it is common to see death losses in one pasture,
but not across the fence. However, all livestock in an infected area should
be vaccinated, to prevent potential losses. There is no effective, approved
manner to deliver anthrax vaccine to grazing wildlife that cannot be
captured and confined.
Dr. Fancher said that, during the anthrax outbreak, deer owners enrolled in
the chronic wasting disease (CWD) surveillance program are to report death
losses, but they should check with their private veterinary practitioner
before collecting brain tissue from the animal for CWD testing. "If a dead
deer has clinical signs of anthrax, we may need to avoid opening the
carcass," he said. CWD has not been detected in Texas.
"Anthrax is an ancient disease that occurs worldwide. The first reports in
livestock date back to 1500 BC," noted Dr. Fancher. "When an infected
animal dies, the ground becomes contaminated with the spores of _Bacillus
anthracis_ bacteria, unless the carcass and soil are purified with a very
hot fire. Even though spores do not multiply or spread underground, they
can lie dormant in soil for decades, awaiting the perfect combination of
weather and soil conditions to become vegetative. Animals then are exposed
to the disease when they eat grass contaminated with the bacteria."
TAHC regulations require that the affected animal's bedding, its carcass,
and nearby manure be burned with wood, diesel or gasoline (tires and oil
create too much pollution), to cleanse the ground. Do not open carcasses.
If there is a burn ban in the area, contact the TAHC Area 6 office in
Lampasas at 1-800-658-6642 for disposal information.
Livestock on the premises must then be vaccinated and held under quarantine
for a short time, to ensure any anthrax-exposed animals are not moved from
the premises. Laboratory tests, conducted by the Texas Veterinary Medical
Diagnostic Laboratory in College Station, are needed to confirm infection,
and suspected cases should be reported to private veterinary practitioners
or the TAHC's headquarters in Austin at 1-800-550-8242.
Anyone handling or burning carcasses, or vaccinating livestock against
anthrax should wear long sleeves and gloves. Exposure can cause a nasty,
black sore that requires medical attention and antibiotics. General
sanitation procedures should be followed after handling livestock, and
equipment used on the animals should be disinfected. Pets should be kept
from dead carcasses or bones of dead animals, which may pose a disease
risk. Healthy animals should be moved from anthrax-contaminated areas.
"Visitors to the area should not be alarmed by anthrax," said Dr. Fancher.
"Just leave dead animals alone, and don't pick up shed antlers or old
animal bones. By the time the area's hunting season begins, the cooler
weather brings an outbreak to a close. If, after an outing, you develop an
unusual sore, see your physician for treatment."
Actions that should be taken during an anthrax outbreak:
1. Properly dispose of animal carcasses by burning to prevent exposure to
other animals, such as predators or dogs. Remove healthy livestock from
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. [You need to wait 7-10 days between
injecting the antibiotics and then inoculating with the Sterne vaccine. -
Mod.MHJ] Vaccinated animals are to be withheld from slaughter for 2 months.
3. Restrict movement of livestock from an affected premise until animals
can develop immunity through vaccination. [Normally this takes 8 days. -
[To make God laugh, make plans. The corollary to this rule is that disease
outbreaks occur when the interested epidemiologist is traveling out of
country; just as negative samples are never delivered to a diagnostic
laboratory after 3pm on a Friday, only positives. I have been in Canada all
week. Fortunately my graduate student is in West Texas trapping horseflies
and radio-collaring deer on our study ranch just south of Sutton County. He
has already made contact with the involved veterinarians there and
elsewhere on the Edwards Plateau and shortly will be visiting with them and
the involved ranchers. So far in Sutton County some 9-10 ranches have
affected stock, mainly deer. Apparently there are reliable reports that a
state experimental farm has some 15 dead deer; also that there is one human
with a cutaneous lesion ... who and how is unknown at this time.
It is claimed that there have been no recorded cases of anthrax in the area
in some 70 years. If that is true, which I severely doubt, it would have to
have been brought in, possibly in latently infected replacement stock from
a deer farm affected during the 2001 epidemic. It is more likely that it
has been happening all along but the sporadic nature of scattered
individual deaths allowed it to be seen but not observed. We will share
Jason's [my graduate student] observations with members as well as those of
others as the situation develops.
All affected dead animals should be burnt. Last summer we developed the
"British Barbecue" system of burning deer carcasses, which involves three
20-lb sacks of the cheapest charcoal briquettes and a 10-lb bag; the
20-pounders go under the carcass, the 10-pounder under the head after
slicing open the paper sacks and adding diesel fuel. Place the carcass on
top and light carefully. This will effectively burn a deer carcass in 60
minutes, which is cheaper (cost less than USD 20), faster, and quicker than
cutting wood and piling up rubber tires. Obviously with more dead deer
efficiencies of scale can be obtained, which should bring the cost down to
USD 10/deer. We call it the British Barbecue to differentiate it from the
admirable Texas barbecue for cooking beef. With cows you must get an
airflow under the carcass if you want to burn it quickly, i.e. in one day.
With the continuous rains this winter and spring and the dry weather
afterwards, we have been expecting such an event. This outbreak followed
the classic Texas anthrax weather pattern of wet weather followed by hot
and dry; whether we will see a parallel epidemic in Val Verde, Edwards, and
Uvalde counties is not known but frankly expected. Just as we might well
see outbreaks in Jim Hogg County to the south, where it is normally truly
Interestingly, I have been told that the trigger is a brief shower in this
long hot weather with deer deaths following 10 days later. The explanation
would be that the brief shower provides a brief vegetative growth,
especially in the already short dry grazing, and therefore the consumption
of spore contaminated-soil during grazing. White-tailed deer are normally
browsers but do graze. If one of this summer's hurricanes were to come
ashore in south Texas, the resulting downpour inland would wash off all the
spores deposited on leaf browse by the blow flies after they fed on
infected carcasses. The onset of wet season rains normally terminates
anthrax outbreaks in the African parks, and logically the same scenario
should apply here. - Mod.MHJ]