Anthrax has killed one cow and is suspected to have killed 50 others on a Logan County ranch in Colorado, according to the Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA). The ranch has been quarantined. None of the cattle left the location prior to quarantine or entered the food chain.
CDA and public health officials are conducting an ongoing investigation, monitoring the people, cattle, and equipment that may have come into contact with anthrax. “Our focus is on the potential for human exposure,” Dr. Tony Cappello, district public health administrator for the Northeast Colorado Health Department, said in a statement. “We are currently conducting our own public health investigation and contacting individuals that have been involved with the livestock. Anthrax is not spread from person to person and exposure is limited only to those who had contact with the affected cattle or the immediate area.”
CDA believes the threat is localized. “The risk is minimal outside the affected ranch. We believe, at this point, that anthrax is confined to that specific premises,” State Veterinarian, Dr. Keith Roehr, said in a statement. “Colorado has not had an anthrax case in 31 years but anthrax outbreaks are not uncommon in the Western United States. We are dedicated to providing the necessary response to ensure that the investigation works quickly to limit the spread of this disease.”
Anthrax is a bacteria that occurs naturally in the soil. It forms spores which tend to become active during periods of climate change such as heavy rainfall, flooding or drought. Grazing livestock are then exposed. There are three ways anthrax is transmitted: through contact with skin, by breathing it in or by ingesting it.
Humans most often contract the infection through contact with infected animals. If caught early, anthrax can be treated with antibiotics. Animals can be vaccinated for anthrax and CDA is advising ranchers in the surrounding area to discuss this measure with their veterinarians. Anthrax can kill a large number of animals in a short period of time and animals found dead from anthrax often show no sign of illness. To prevent further soil contamination, health authorities in Colorado are using prescribed methods to dispose of the carcasses.