Warning issued as anthrax shows up early

Having a case this early in the year is unusual 
and the dry spring may be to blame

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry has confirmed a case of anthrax in a cow in Mackenzie County.

A few cases of anthrax are reported in Western Canada nearly every year, typically between July and mid-September and usually following hot weather. This case is unusual in that it was detected in March. Anthrax spores survive in soil, and the disease seems to occur more frequently during dry weather. Early dry weather this year might contribute to cases of anthrax.

Anthrax in animals is almost always fatal, with a rapid onset of severe disease within a few hours. Death loss can range from a single animal to a large number of animals in a very short period of time.

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If you suspect an animal might have anthrax or you have a sudden, unexplained death of an animal:

  • Call your veterinarian immediately to get a prompt and accurate diagnosis that will help in preventing the spread of the disease in your herd and to other herds. A vet can also determine whether vaccination is appropriate.
  • Remove surviving animals from the pasture.
  • Do not move dead animals, and do not call for deadstock pickup.
  • Try to prevent scavenging of carcasses by covering them with a secured tarp or heavy-duty plastic. Stake the edges to secure the plastic or tarp.

The most common indicator of anthrax in animals is sudden death with no warning signs. There may also be a bloody discharge from the animal.

If anthrax is suspected, your vet will collect samples and send them for testing and provide instructions about deadstock disposal.

Although animal cases pose minimal risk to people, anthrax can cause severe disease in humans. Precautions should be taken in handling animals or carcasses suspected of anthrax.

If you have any questions or concerns, contact the Office of the Chief Provincial Veterinarian within 24 hours at 780-427-3448 or 1-800-524-0051(after office hours).

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