Anthrax is a naturally occurring disease of animals caused by a bacteria. Anthrax is not spread by animal to animal contact like many other livestock diseases. Rather, anthrax spores in the soil are likely ingested by livestock while they graze on pasture. Once inside the animal’s body, the spores become active. Infected animals may die before showing any clinical signs. All warm-blooded animals are susceptible to anthrax, but cattle, sheep and goats are the most commonly affected. In rare cases, humans can contract anthrax after handling or eating infected animal products.
When anthrax is confirmed on a Minnesota farm, our district veterinarians place a quarantine on the herd. The quarantine can be released 30 days after the last animal death due to anthrax.
Since 2000, all positive anthrax cases in Minnesota have been confined to the northwest part of the state. As a precaution, producers with grazing animals in that area should consult with their veterinarians about vaccinating against anthrax infections. Additionally, livestock found dead in northwest Minnesota should be treated as an anthrax suspect. Carcasses should not be cut open and examined as this could release anthrax bacteria into the environment. Instead, producers should contact their veterinarian immediately so blood samples can be collected from the dead animal and submitted for testing.