Anthrax cases continue to appear on new premises in Texas counties. Typically, two to three cases are identified each summer by the Texas A&M Medical Diagnostic Laboratory. However, as of July 29, 18 locations have tested positive for the disease, according to the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC).
The TAHC quarantined four new locations in Crockett and Sutton counties. The quarantine restrictions typically last 10 days after vaccination or the last death. There have been five Texas counties confirmed so far to have been infected with anthrax: Crockett, Kinney, Sutton, Uvalde and Val Verde.
The counties with confirmed cases are located along the southwestern side of the state where anthrax cases have been reported historically. Animals affected include antelope, goat, deer, horses, cattle and humans.
Swine, horses, dogs and humans may become ill, but infection is less severe so they may recover fully.
Premises found positive for the disease will have control measures and travel restrictions implemented by TAHC. All remaining animals will be vaccinated, carcasses will be disposed of, and animals will not be able to be transported out of the area.
Onset of anthrax
Anthrax is a disease caused by a spore-forming bacterium called Bacillus anthracis. The bacterium is capable of remaining dormant in the soil for several years. After a period of cool wet weather followed by hot and dry conditions, the bacteria can resurface.
Animals can ingest the bacteria or inhale the spores on contaminated forages. TAHC says it takes around three to seven days for symptoms of anthrax to appear. Once they do, death usually comes within 48 hours.
Symptoms usually start with acute fever followed by a sudden death with bleeding from body orifices. Other symptoms include staggering, depression, respiratory struggles and seizures. Carcasses appear bloated and may decompose quickly.
Vaccination and safety
There is an anthrax vaccine available and vaccinations should be administered two to four weeks before the usual outbreak season, in early spring. Livestock near or in an outbreak area, as well as animals that will be transported into the area, should be vaccinated.
Carcasses of diseased animals should be burned to prevent contamination of the soil. This is the only method that will ensure the death of the bacteria. If the affected animal was kept in a barn, all bedding, manure and surrounding soil should also be burned.
When burning carcasses or affected materials, people should wear long sleeves and gloves. Hands should be washed thoroughly, as a skin form of anthrax could develop, beginning with itching and sores that become black scabs. If left untreated, 5 to 20 percent of victims will die.
Spore inhalation symptoms may appear the same as a common cold, but can develop into severe respiratory issues and shock. This form is usually fatal unless the person is treated before symptoms occur.
The final disease contraction for humans is eating contaminated foods. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and severe diarrhea, and will also lead to death. — Anna Miller, WLJ editor