It's shaping up to be a tough summer for animal health across South Texas.
Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) officials have reported the first case of anthrax in Texas this year after a goat in Kinney County was discovered and confirmed to have died from exposure to the spore-forming bacterium, Bacillus anthracis.
The news comes on the heels of reports of five Kinney County horses that were confirmed with Vesicular Stomatitis (VS) in late May. VS and anthrax are unrelated animal conditions and officials say there is no connection between the animals or the diseases.
Anthrax is a bacterial disease caused by Bacillus anthracis, which is a naturally occurring organism with worldwide distribution, including certain parts of Texas. It is not uncommon for anthrax to be diagnosed in livestock or wildlife in the southwestern part of the state. A vaccine is available for use in susceptible livestock in high risk areas.
Kinney County is located in the southwest region of the state; the county seat is Brackettville, just southeast of Del Rio.
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Acute fever followed by rapid death with bleeding from body openings are common signs of anthrax in livestock. Carcasses may also appear bloated and decompose quickly. Livestock or animals displaying symptoms consistent with anthrax should be reported to a private veterinary practitioner or a TAHC official.
Anthrax mainly affects livestock and wild game. Humans can become infected through direct or indirect contact with sick animals. No evidence exists to show that anthrax is transmitted from person to person, but it's possible that anthrax skin lesions may be contagious through direct contact. Usually, anthrax bacteria enter the body through a wound in the skin. You can also become infected by eating contaminated meat or inhaling the spores.
If affected livestock or carcasses must be handled, producers are encouraged to follow basic sanitation precautions such as wearing protective gloves, long sleeve shirts and washing thoroughly afterward to prevent accidental spread of the bacteria to people.
Signs and symptoms, which depend on how a human is infected, can range from skin sores to vomiting to shock. Prompt treatment with antibiotics can cure most anthrax infections. Inhaled anthrax is more difficult to treat and can be fatal.
Herbivorous animals are highly susceptible to anthrax, while carnivorous birds and reptiles are resistant. In livestock, the disease usually is acute, resulting in death in one to three days. By the time an animal displays signs of disease, including staggering, trembling, convulsions, or bleeding from body openings, death usually follows quickly. Body temperatures may reach as high as 107 degrees. The disease occurs in cattle, sheep, goats, horses and mules.
In swine and dogs, anthrax generally occurs as a less acute form. They are infected only by ingesting heavily contaminated food, either the raw meat of animals that have died of the disease or, in swine, infected bone or meat meal given as a feed supplement.
"The TAHC will continue to closely monitor the situation for possible new cases across the state. Producers are encouraged to consult their veterinary practitioner or local TAHC office if they suspect their animals are affected with anthrax, or if they have questions about the disease or the vaccination of their livestock," said Dr. T.R. Lansford, TAHC Assistant Executive Director for Animal Health Programs.
Another VS case
Also this week, another case of equine Vesicular Stomatitis has been confirmed, once again in a horse in Nueces County. The premises where the horse is located and now quarantined is 10.2 miles south of Mathis. To date, seven premises in four Texas counties have been confirmed with VS, about a dozen animals so far.
After the five horses in Kinney County were confirmed with VS at the first premises, two additional cases of VS in horses in Hidalgo County in South Texas were announced on June 5 and 9 respectively. One site was located approximately 24 miles northwest of Edinburg. The other was three miles northwest of Edinburg.
Two new cases of VS were confirmed June 17 in horses in San Patricio County in South Texas. One site is approximately 7 ½ miles southeast of Mathis. The other is located approximately 7 miles southeast of Mathis.
Another single case of VS was announced June 20 in Nueces County on a location 10 miles south of Mathis.
All VS cases tested positive for the New Jersey serotype. The newly identified infected premises is currently under quarantine by the TAHC. Affected horses will be monitored by regulatory veterinarians while under quarantine. Infected premises are eligible for quarantine release 21 days after all lesions have healed. There is no known exposure to other horses around the state, or at any equine events.
In addition to confirmed cases of VS in Texas, USDA-APHIS reports an additional 80-plus animal are under observation for possible VS exposure.
Several states have provided the TAHC with information on enhanced entry requirements they are imposing on Texas livestock (including horses) due to the recently announced VS cases in Texas. For information about these movement restrictions, contact the state or country of destination and/or visit.