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North Dakota Reports 25th Case of Cattle Anthrax in 2021

A recent occurrence of cattle anthrax has been verified in southwest North Dakota’s Grant County, increasing the count of cases in the state to 25 this year, according to state agriculture officials.

This is the first reported case in the state since August, all in Grant County and neighboring Hettinger and Adams counties. These cases have resulted in approximately 170 cattle deaths, stated the North Dakota Department of Agriculture in a news release Thursday.

Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring mentioned that while it’s uncommon to see a case so late in the year, the area has experienced unusually mild weather recently that has allowed cattle to remain on pastureland where anthrax thrives.

The year’s South Dakota outbreak is the worst since 2005. From 2006 through last year, 18 cases of cattle anthrax were confirmed. Outbreaks in the U.S. are rare, as a vaccine for livestock is inexpensive and easily administered.

“Many producers in the affected area worked with veterinarians to administer vaccinations earlier this year,” North Dakota State Veterinarian Dr. Ethan Andress said.

The disease is not contagious. It’s caused by bacterial spores that can lie dormant in the ground for decades and become active under ideal conditions, such as drought. In 2005, 109 anthrax cases led to more than 500 confirmed animal deaths, with total livestock losses estimated at more than 1,000.

Naturally occurring anthrax presents little danger to humans. Typically in the U.S., infection arises from handling carcasses or fluids from affected livestock without protective clothing, which transfer the spores and result in an easily treatable skin infection, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The most danger to humans comes from breathing in spores, which is nearly always fatal if left untreated. But this is extremely rare, even for people who work with livestock, according to the CDC.

Most people associate anthrax with the weaponized version used in the 2001 attacks, when five people died and 17 others were sickened from letters containing anthrax spores sent through the mail.

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