The animal research and diagnostic lab at South Dakota State University has confirmed the presence of Anthrax in a beef herd West of the Missouri River.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Anthrax can cause severe illness in humans and animals. CDC lists Anthrax as a serious infectious disease caused by gram-positive, rod-shaped bacteria known as Bacillus anthracis.

It occurs naturally in soil and commonly affects domestic and wild animals worldwide. People can get sick with anthrax if they come in contact with infected animals or contaminated animal products. 

The disease is confirmed in a beef herd located in Ziebach County, SD, according to the South Dakota State Veterinarian. The 1,971 square mile county reported a population of 2,801 for the 2010 census. 

Several dead animals were found in an unvaccinated herd of about 150 pairs, state veterinarian Dr. Beth Thompson said. The South Dakota Animal Industry Board has quarantined the affected herd and will quarantine any additional affected herds.

Livestock owners who suspect anthrax are told not move the carcasses until a diagnosis is made, according to the state veterinarian.

Anthrax spores survive indefinitely in soil and much of South Dakota has the potential of having contaminated soil, the news release said. Weather events, such as drought, floods, and winds, can expose the anthrax spores to livestock. Other factors that affect the spores are certain soil types, high humidity, and high temperatures, which allow the anthrax spores to become infectious to grazing livestock.

The Mayo Clinic reports no evidence that anthrax is transmitted from person to person, but anthrax skin lesions may be contagious through direct contact or contact with a contaminated object (fomite). Usually, anthrax bacteria enter the human body through a wound in the skin. You can also become infected by eating contaminated meat or inhaling the spores.

“Signs and symptoms, which depend on how you’re infected, can include skin sores, vomiting and shock, Mayo adds. “Prompt treatment with antibiotics can cure most anthrax infections. Inhaled anthrax is more difficult to treat and can be fatal.”

It says Anthrax is very rare in the developed world. However, the illness remains a concern because the bacteria have been used in bioterrorism attacks in the United States.

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