As of August 29, 2019, seven animals in the Saskatchewan RM of Chester have been found dead, and confirmed to have the bacteria that causes anthrax.
Bacillus anthracis can survive in its spore form for decades. According to the Beef Cattle Research Council, the ‘perfect storm’ for the disease is caused by flooding or heavy rains in the spring followed by drought. The moisture moves spores up in the soil profile, while the later drought may encourage animals to graze closer to the soil surface.
Livestock are infected when they eat forage contaminated with the spores, and the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture is warning producers to keep an eye out for the animals that are highly susceptible, including bison, cattle, sheep and goats.
The ministry is also urging producers to call their local veterinarians if they suspect signs of anthrax in their herds or herds nearby, or if they are in an area that has had a previous outbreak, as the risk can be lowered through vaccination.
All tests must be confirmed by laboratory diagnosis, and positive test results must be immediately reported to the provincial Chief Veterinary Officer.
The carcass of any animal suspected of having anthrax should not be moved or disturbed, and should be protected from scavengers such as coyotes or ravens, to prevent spreading spores in the environment. Although swine, birds, and carnivores are typically resistant to infection, farm dogs and cats should be kept away from carcasses to keep from the risk of infection. Even though animal cases posing minimal risk to humans, careful handling of the carcasses is still advised.
Editors note: As of Friday morning, Saskatchewan Agriculture issued a correction to the location of the disease. They previously stated the location as the RM of Golden West, which was incorrect.