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Natural anthrax: what you need to know

LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --

The Texas Animal Health Commission recently reported that since June 2019, there have been 18 animals that tested positive for anthrax in five Texas counties, one of them in Val Verde County.

Anthrax is an infectious disease caused by a spore-forming bacteria (Bacillus anthracis) that occurs naturally in certain species of animals in the southwest part of Texas, such as antelopes, goats, horses, deer and cattle.

When an animal dies from the disease, the spores will contaminate the soil and remain dormant until periods of wet, cool weather followed by hot, dry conditions.

Animals ingest the spores as they eat contaminated plants and become sick within days.

After symptoms begin, they usually die within 48 hours. Infections in animals usually end when cool weather arrives and the bacteria become dormant again.

A vaccine for livestock is commonly used in areas that have anthrax, therefore, large outbreaks are rare.

Though transmission to humans is uncommon, people can get cutaneous (skin) anthrax infections through handling dead or sick animals infected with anthrax or gastrointestinal anthrax through eating undercooked meat from infected animals.

Although anthrax is a serious illness, cutaneous and gastrointestinal anthrax infections are treatable with antibiotics and have nothing to do with the more lethal respiratory form of anthrax associated with bioterrorism.

If you come across a dead animal on base, do not touch it or move it – instead, contact the Laughlin Natural Resources Manager Danny Yandell at (830) 563-0371 or Ryan Schmidt, a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologist at (830) 703-6808.

For additional information, please visit https://www.tahc.texas.gov/news/ or contact the Laughlin AFB Public Health Office at (830) 298-6218.