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Note: An area-wide meeting about anthrax in livestock will be held in the Sonora Community Center at 7
p.m., Thursday, July 7. Dr. Thurman Fancher, Area 6 director for the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC),
will discuss the recently confirmed anthrax cases on two ranches in the county, answer questions about the
disease and provide information on proper carcass disposal, vaccinating and reporting of possible cases.
For Immediate Release--
Texas Animal Health Commission
Box l2966 •Austin, Texas 78711 •(800) 550-8242• FAX (512) 719-0719
Bob Hillman, DVM • Executive Director
For info, contact Carla Everett, information officer, at 1-800-550-8242, ext. 710,
Anthrax Confirmed in Sutton County, Texas
Two ranches in Sutton County, Texas have laboratory-confirmed cases of anthrax in horses, deer and cattle,
and laboratory results are pending for several other sites in the county, where livestock and deer losses have been reported. Although this
bacterial disease occurs almost yearly in this region of the state, cases have not been confirmed within Sutton County for more than 20 years. Typically, outbreaks are in
Val Verde, Edwards, Kinney and Uvalde counties, but on rare occasions, cases have been confirmed as far south
as Starr County, reports Dr. Thurman Fancher, director of Area 6 (West Texas) for the Texas Animal Health
“Anthrax is under-reported, because many ranchers in this area automatically dispose of carcasses and
vaccinate livestock when they find dead animals that are bloated or bloody--common signs of the disease,”
said Dr. Fancher. “Anthrax is a reportable disease, however, and it’s important to know when an
outbreak occurs, so other ranchers can be notified to vaccinate.
Dr. Fancher explained that it is common to see death losses in one pasture, but not across the fence. However,
all livestock in an infected area should be vaccinated, to prevent potential losses. There is no effective,
approved manner to deliver anthrax vaccine to grazing wildlife that cannot be captured and confined.
Dr. Fancher said that, during the anthrax outbreak, deer owners enrolled in the chronic wasting disease (CWD)
surveillance program are to report death losses, but they should check with their private veterinary
practitioner before collecting brain tissue from the animal for CWD testing. “If a dead deer has
clinical signs of anthrax, we may need to avoid opening the carcass,” he said. CWD has not been detected in
“Anthrax is an ancient disease that occurs worldwide. The first reports in livestock date back to 1500
BC,” noted Dr. Fancher. “When an infected animal dies, the ground becomes contaminated with the
spores of Bacillus anthracis bacteria, unless the carcass and soil are purified with a very hot fire. Even
though spores do not multiply or spread underground, they can lie dormant in soil for decades, awaiting the
perfect combination of weather and soil conditions to become vegetative. Animals then are exposed to the
disease when they eat grass contaminated with the bacteria.”
TAHC regulations require that the affected animal’s bedding, its carcass, and nearby manure be burned with
wood, diesel or gasoline (tires and oil create too much pollution), to cleanse the ground. Do not open
carcasses. If there is a burn ban in the area, contact the TAHC Area 6office in Lampasas at 1-800-658-6642 for
Livestock on the premises must then be vaccinated and held under quarantine for a short time, to ensure
any anthrax-exposed animals are not moved from the premises. Laboratory tests, conducted by the Texas
Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory in College Station, are needed to confirm infection, and suspected
cases should be reported to private veterinary practitioners or the TAHC’s headquarters in Austin at
Anyone handling or burning carcasses, or vaccinating livestock against anthrax should wear long sleeves and
gloves. Exposure can cause a nasty, black sore that requires medical attention and antibiotics. General
sanitation procedures should be followed after handling livestock, and equipment used on the animals should be
disinfected. Pets should be kept from dead carcasses or bones of dead animals, which may pose a disease risk.
Healthy animals should be moved from anthrax-contaminated areas.
“Visitors to the area should not be alarmed by anthrax,” said Dr. Fancher. “Just leave dead animals
alone, and don’t pick up shed antlers or old animal bones. By the time the area’s hunting season
begins, the cooler weather brings an outbreak to a close. If, after an outing, you develop an unusual
sore, see your physician for treatment.”
Actions that should be taken during an anthrax outbreak:
1. Properly dispose of animal carcasses by burning to prevent exposure to other
animals, such as predators or dogs. Remove healthy livestock from the area.
2. Vaccinate livestock if cases occur in the surrounding areas. Because the anthrax
vaccine is a “live” vaccine, it should not be administered concurrently with
antibiotics. Vaccinated animals are to be withheld from slaughter for two months.
3. Restrict movement of livestock from an affected premise until
animals can develop immunity through vaccination.
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