Anthrax Cropping Up in Saskatchewan

Jul 12, 2021

A deadly disease for livestock has reappeared in Saskatchewan once again.

On Thursday last week, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture confirmed anthrax had claimed the life of a sheep in the RM of South Qu'Appelle.

"That was confirmed off a lab result due to an animal that was found dead and was sent into the lab for testing," Stephanie Smith, the chief veterinarian officer with the Saskatchewan Agriculture, said. "It's also suspected that anthrax was the cause of death in four other animals that were deceased on that same premises but it was just that one animal that was submitted for testing."

Anthrax spores can live in the soil for decades and is normally found in areas where the soil moisture has changed significantly.

"Typically this time of year it is quite common to see anthrax cases," she said. "As we know anthrax is found in the soil very commonly, however, in conditions that are more dry or where we see bodies of water dry up and then livestock have access to where spores can concentrate, we may be more likely to see those cases occur."

This is the first confirmed case of anthrax in the province since 2019 and before that, it was 2015.

If a producer comes across some livestock they believe is infected with the disease, they're recommended to contact their local vet.

"Cases of anthrax do require confirmation in the lab so your veterinarian will come out, take the appropriate samples, and then bring those into the lab for diagnosis," she said. "During that time the most important thing a producer can do is protect the carcass itself."

Ruminants such as bison, cattle, sheep and goats, are highly susceptible, while horses can also be infected.

"There is a low potential for humans to become infected if they're in contact with the carcasses themselves although that is a very low risk," she said.

The one way to protect livestock from this disease is through vaccination.

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