Anthrax found in South Dakota cattle

Several unvaccinated cows in Meade County have died after being infected with anthrax, according to a Tuesday release from the South Dakota Animal Industry Board. The Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory at South Dakota State University confirmed the disease from samples submitted over the weekend.

This is the first appearance of anthrax infection in South Dakota livestock this year.

Anthrax is an infectious bacterial disease capable of affecting a wide range of livestock as well as humans. Symptoms are frequently swift and severe, with cattle often dying before any illness is detected.

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Image credit: Arthur Friedlander


“Anthrax is an economically devastating disease for the livestock industry because it can cause the rapid loss of many animals in a short time,” Beth Thompson, South Dakota State Veterinarian, said in a press release.

Anthrax infections are not particularly common in the United States, but certain weather conditions can spark an outbreak.

“Anthrax spores survive indefinitely in contaminated soil, and much of South Dakota has the potential of experiencing an outbreak,” Thompson said. “Significant climate change, such as drought, floods, and winds, can expose anthrax spores to grazing livestock. Alkaline soils, high humidity, and high temperatures present conditions for anthrax spores to vegetate and become infectious to grazing livestock.”

Thompson said that strict enforcement of quarantines and proper burning and burial of suspected carcasses is vital to prevent further soil contamination.

“During the summer, producers should take time to check all cattle frequently and promptly investigate any unexpected deaths on pasture, whether in cows, bulls or calves,” Thompson said. “With anthrax and many other diseases, treatments and preventative measures are available, and prompt action can help prevent excessive losses.”

If you suspect anthrax has infected any of your animals, report it immediately to local veterinarians or to the State Veterinarian at 605-773-3321. Thompson warns that suspect carcasses should not be moved until after the cause of death is diagnosed.

Categories: South Dakota News