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Two Becker County cows die from anthrax

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health confirmed April 22 that two cows on a Becker County farm died last week of anthrax, the first anthrax cases in 2008. The herd will remain under quarantine for 30 days from the day the last death occurs from anthrax.

After the dead cows were discovered on pasture, a blood sample was collected and sent to the North Dakota State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Fargo. Tests confirmed the samples were positive for anthrax. The herd was not vaccinated for anthrax this year.

Anthrax is a naturally occurring disease caused by the bacteria Bacillus anthracis. All warm-blooded animals are susceptible to the disease but cattle, sheep and goats are the most commonly affected species. In rare cases, humans can contract anthrax after handling or eating infected products.

Animals are most likely to be affected by anthrax in the summer while out on pasture. Although it is unusual to see a case of anthrax so early in the year, these animals were on pasture in an area where cases had been detected in the past. Cases typically occur in areas where animals have previously died of anthrax. Anthrax is not spread by animal to animal contact.

"Anthrax spores can survive for many years in the soil," said Board of Animal Health Senior Veterinarian Dr. Linda Glaser. "In recent years, anthrax has been found in northwestern Minnesota but it is important to understand that western Minnesota does have a history of anthrax and producers should seriously consider anthrax vaccinations for grazing animals."

Cattle producers should contact a veterinarian for information on vaccinating animals.

Any animal that dies suddenly of an unknown cause in western Minnesota should be treated as an anthrax suspect. Producers should contact their veterinarian immediately so blood samples can be submitted for testing. If anthrax is confirmed, any remaining animals should be vaccinated and treated.

Necropsies should not be performed on suspect carcasses as the procedure can result in contamination of surrounding soil. All suspect cases of anthrax must be reported to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health at (651) 201-6831.

For more information on anthrax and steps farmers can take to protect their cattle, visit the Board of Animal Health Web site at