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Anthrax confirmed in 2 Saskatchewan bison deaths

File photo of bison. Anthrax has been confirmed as the cause of death in two Saskatchewan bison, may be cause in seven other deaths.
File photo of bison. Anthrax has been confirmed as the cause of death in two Saskatchewan bison, may be cause in seven other deaths.

REGINA – Officials are advising producers to be on the lookout for anthrax. Saskatchewan Agriculture confirmed Thursday anthrax was the cause of death in two bison northwest of North Battleford and is the suspected cause in seven other deaths.

Anthrax, with is caused by the bacteria Bacillus anthracis, can survive in spore form for decades in soil. Changes in soil moisture, from flooding and drying, can lead to a build-up of the spores on pastures.

Livestock become infected when they eat forage contaminated with spores.

READ MORE: Anthrax found in Saskatchewan cow; found in hay

Ruminants such as bison, cattle, sheep and goats, are highly susceptible, and horses can also be infected. While swine, birds and carnivores are more resistant to infection, farm dogs and cats should be kept away from carcasses.

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The carcass of any animal suspected of having anthrax should not be moved or disturbed and should be protected from scavengers to ensure the spores from spreading.

Officials say anyone who suspects anthrax should contact their veterinarian immediately for diagnosis, which can only be confirmed by a lab test.

Producers should use caution when handling potentially infected animals or carcasses. While animal cases pose minimal risk to humans, people can get infected through direct contact with sick animals or carcasses.

Anyone who believes they may have been exposed to an infected animal should contact their local health authority or physician for advice.