Editor’s note: The Saskatchewan government has issued a correction on the location of the anthrax cases. The government previously said anthrax was found in the RM of Golden West, which is adjacent to the RM of Chester.
Laboratory results on Thursday confirmed anthrax was the cause of death for seven farm animals in a southeastern area of the province, according to government officials.
Dr. Betty Althouse, the ministry’s chief veterinary officer, says the animals were farmed livestock.
She says the last cases of animal anthrax that resulted in death occurred in 2015.
Althouse says there have been a few other suspected cases of anthrax throughout the summer, but all of them turned out negative.
“We do suspect anthrax in the summer on pasture when there’s sudden deaths in animals. It is important to get a veterinary diagnosis to confirm whether it is or not, so this is the first case that was confirmed.”
Althouse says the livestock that died were grazing in a slough on a pasture.
She says the veterinarian dealing with the herd is considering whether to relocate the rest of the animals off the contaminated pasture, as well as if short term treatment is needed.
The province says animal cases pose little risk to humans, but people can become infected through direct contact with sick animals or their carcasses.
It says anthrax can be prevented through vaccination.
Althouse says couldn’t confirm whether or not the livestock that died were vaccinated.
Animal cases pose minimal risk to humans, but people can still be infected through direct contact with sick animals or carcasses, the ministry said. In cases where people have been exposed to an infected animal, they should contact a health professional for advice.
The ministry is advising Saskatchewan producers to be on the lookout for anthrax in their animals.
Bison, cattle, sheep and goats are highly susceptible and horses can be infected as well. Affected animals are usually found dead without any signs of illness.
Anyone who suspects the presence of anthrax is advised not to move or disturb the carcass and to contact their local veterinarian immediately for diagnosis.
The carcass of any animal suspected of being infected should be protected from scavengers to prevent it from spreading in the environment.
Anthrax is caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, which can survive in spore form for decades in soil.
Flooding and drying can lead to a build-up of the spores on pastures and sloughs. Officials said spores can also surface when the ground is dug up or when there is excessive run-off.
Livestock can become infected by eating forage contaminated with spores.
Producers in regions that have experienced previous outbreaks are strongly encouraged to vaccinate their animals each year.
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—With files from the Canadian Press