Anthrax is nothing new in Texas

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- A local television station recently reported that several heads of cattle and an unknown number of deer in West Texas have died from anthrax.

Most of us knew little about anthrax prior to the events of 9/11, but Texas ranchers were familiar with this disease long before September 11, 2001. Anthrax occurs naturally in livestock in the southwestern part of Texas and because of the climatic and soil conditions, it will probably remain here forever.

After an animal dies from the disease, if not properly burned, the bacteria will contaminate and lie dormant in the soil. The anthrax bacteria resurfaces on grass and soil after periods of wet, cool weather, followed by several weeks of hot, dry conditions.

Animals ingest the anthrax bacteria as they eat plants contaminated with the bacteria, and become sick within days. Once symptoms begin, animals usually die within two days. Infections in animals usually end when cool weather arrives and the bacteria become dormant again.

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 that it is associated with bioterrorism.
For more information about anthrax, contact Capt. Diaz at 654-3262 or visit www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/anthrax/index.asp