Consider vaccinating for anthrax now

May 1, 2009
by WLJ
Consider vaccinating for anthrax now

This spring’s flooding in the northern Plains increases the probability that anthrax will appear this summer.

“Producers should seriously consider vaccinating their animals before spring turnout this year,” North Dakota State University Extension Service veterinarian Charlie Stoltenow says. The region’s first anthrax case of the season usually appears in June. Most often, the animal is found in a herd that has not been vaccinated.

The anthrax vaccine is very effective and safe, according to Stoltenow. It will not cause anthrax in animals and is not dangerous to humans. He advises producers to contact their veterinarian about getting their livestock vaccinated before they go out onto pasture.

“Gathering up cattle in the summer for vaccinations is time-consuming, difficult, and could have been prevented,” he says. Anthrax is a concern because it can be a long-term problem. Spores of the bacteria that cause it can survive in the soil for many decades.

2005 was a bad year for anthrax in the upper Midwest and Manitoba. The disease killed more than 500 animals in the region.

Most were cattle, but bison, horses, sheep, llamas and farm-raised elk and deer also died. Cases of anthrax develop in the region almost every year. However, favorable weather conditions, such as heavy rainfall, flooding or drought, may make the disease more widespread. Rain and flooding can raise the spores to the ground’s surface, where livestock graze.

Drought conditions can lead to soil erosion, which also allows spores to resurface. — WLJ