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Last Updated

16 Sep 2003

Source: Rapid City Journal (South Dakota), September 13, 2003

Anthrax kills 10 cows in Tripp County

PIERRE -- Anthrax has killed 10 cows on a Tripp County ranch, in the second appearance of anthrax in South Dakota livestock this year.

The deaths were reported to Dr. Sam Holland, state veterinarian, on Wednesday, and the state Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory on Thursday confirmed anthrax, according to a news release from Holland.

The case involves an unvaccinated group of about 70 cow-calf pairs, Holland said.

The herd was scheduled to be immediately treated with antibiotics and vaccinated and carcasses properly disposed of under the supervision of the South Dakota Animal Industry Board.

The cattle affected were being pastured about 10 miles northwest of Witten in south central South Dakota near the Nebraska border.

In August, anthrax killed part of a cattle herd on a Butte County ranch.

Anthrax is a serious disease because it can cause the rapid loss of a large number of animals in a very short time, Holland said.

The state strictly enforces quarantine of herds stricken with anthrax and requires proper burning and burying of carcasses suspected of dying from anthrax because the disease is also communicable to humans as well as other animals through carcasses.

Farmers and ranchers are alerted to outbreaks so they can consult their veterinarians and vaccinate their livestock, if deemed appropriate.

Holland said anthrax spores survive in contaminated soil indefinitely and that much of South Dakota has the potential for an outbreak.

Although humans can contract anthrax through contact with carcasses, the livestock disease normally doesn't pose a major threat to humans, Holland has said.

The anthrax outbreak does not pose a threat to food safety, Holland has said.

Any mammal can contract anthrax. Cattle, sheep and buffalo are particularly susceptible.

Humans can contract the less severe skin form of anthrax through contact with an infected animal if they have a break in the skin. The skin form can be readily treated and prevented. Holland urges people who come into contact with animals infected with anthrax to consult their primary care physician.

Being in contact with infected animals poses little risk of getting the much more dangerous respiratory form of the disease, Holland said.

It is possible to contract intestinal anthrax after eating contaminated meat. That form of the disease can be fatal. However, Holland said there is no risk of getting anthrax from animals inspected before slaughter. Because the disease progresses so rapidly, any infected animal will show symptoms and be rejected for consumption at slaughter, he said.

But he has said people eating custom-slaughtered (non-inspected) meat should be cautious.