COLLEGE STATION – Diagnostic testing has confirmed a second case of anthrax in the West Texas region, the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL) announced today. The latest case involves an adult sheep from Edwards County.
Veterinarians at TVMDL’s College Station laboratory diagnosed the case using a bacterial culture from a blood sample. A Sutton County-area veterinarian submitted the specimen on behalf of the owner of the deceased animal.
This region of Texas has a history of anthrax. The disease is occasionally diagnosed there in livestock and wildlife during summer months. This is the state’s second confirmed case of anthrax in livestock this year. A yearling female sheep was diagnosed with the disease in Irion County, near San Angelo, in late July. TVMDL confirmed that case as well.
Confirmed cases of anthrax are reported to the Texas Animal Health Commission. Livestock owners should work with their veterinarian and the commission concerning vaccination protocols and proper disposal of infected carcasses.
Laboratory testing is needed to confirm a suspected case of anthrax. TVMDL offers the following guidelines for submitting a specimen:
• Blood samples may be collected from a vein or from a bleeding orifice and submitted in a red top tube.
• A blood-soaked swab made of cotton or Dacronand air-dried can be submitted in a red top tube or similar container or in a culturette.
If you have questions about sample collection or testing please contact full-service labs in Amarillo at (888) 646-5624 or College Station at (888) 646-5623.
Anthrax is caused by Bacillus anthracis, a spore-forming, Gram-positive bacterium. The spores of this organism can lie dormant in the environment for decades. The bacterium primarily infects grazing animals (herbivores), most commonly through ingestion of anthrax spores from contaminated soil. Other less common routes of exposure are through inhalation or through the skin.
The incubation period can range from one to 14 days. Clinical signs in cattle, sheep, goats and deer may include fever, disorientation, labored breathing, muscle tremors, congested mucous membranes and collapse. It is not uncommon for sudden death to occur without exhibiting clinical signs. An animal can appear healthy and be dead within a matter of a few hours. Horses also are susceptible to anthrax and, in addition to the above symptoms, may show signs of colic, enteritis and swelling of the neck and lower abdomen.
Postmortem external lesions in animals which have died of anthrax include the following: incomplete rigor mortis, rapidly decomposing carcass, poorly clotted blood and dark blood oozing from the nostrils, mouth, anus and vulva. If anthrax is suspected the carcass should not be opened so as to prevent environmental contamination with spores and to reduce the risk of human exposure.
Anthrax is a zoonotic disease that is transmissible between humans and animals. Anyone who handles a suspected animal should wear long sleeves and examination gloves.
To learn more about anthrax, TVMDL suggests you consult this online resource:
• Anthrax Fact Sheets and Overviews, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/anthrax/basics/factsheets.asp
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