Sutton County is still leading in the number of confirmed cases of anthrax in animals, compared to surrounding counties typically affected by seasonal anthrax outbreaks, according to a recent update by the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC).

The August 13 update, one of six updates posted on the TAHC website, identifies Sutton County with 10 confirmed cases of anthrax in Sutton County. The properties reported to have been affected by anthrax are spread through the county, according to TAHC updates.

These areas include the southwest, southeast and most recently the northwest part of the county.

The animal type was not identified specifically in the update.

“Since the August 6, 2019 update, anthrax has been detected on one new premises in south central Crockett County and one new premises in northwest Sutton County,” the update said. “Anthrax has been previously confirmed in both counties this year. TAHC will discontinue weekly anthrax updates unless anthrax is confirmed in a new county or the agency sees a sizable increase in cases. The Texas Animal Health Commission quarantined the premises after animals tested positive for the reportable disease. Anthrax quarantines are typically lifted 10 days from vaccination or the last death loss.

These animals include the following species: antelope, goat, horses, deer and cattle.

Additionally, the total number of premises with confirmed cases of anthrax in animals has increased to 20, in the 5 Texas counties previously identified, according to the TAHC.

These counties and numbers include: Sutton – 10, Crockett – 5, Kinney – 1, Uvalde – 3, and Val Verde – 1.

Sutton County stands out as having the most cases confirmed.

This past year Sutton and nearby counties in West Texas have experienced heavy rainfall and flooding followed by hot, dry conditions making conditions right for anthrax outbreak.

During these conditions, animals ingest the anthrax bacteria when they eat contaminated grass and hay, or sometimes inhale the spores, according to the TAHC. Outbreaks usually end when cooler weather arrives.

All of the premises with confirmed cases of anthrax this year have been quarantined for the required period of time to help stop further spread of the bacteria and to prevent contaminating other animals in the area.

Furthermore, producers have been advised on vaccinating exposed animals and have been instructed on the proper disposal of affected carcasses, as outlined by TAHC’s rules

“An effective anthrax vaccine is available for use in susceptible livestock (includes but is not limited to swine, equine, sheep, goats, cattle, etc.) TAHC encourages livestock owners to consult with a local veterinary practitioner and consider vaccinating livestock if owners live where anthrax is historically found.”

TAHC regulations require that each carcass is “burned until they are thoroughly consumed to prevent further contamination of the soil with the organism. Burning carcasses is the only method to ensure that the anthrax bacteria will be killed.”

Further, due to environmental concerns, heavy oils or tires to burn carcasses should not be used. Fuels permitted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) include gasoline, diesel or wood. Moreover, use caution when burning carcasses. In counties under a burn ban, burning must be coordinated with local fire authorities prior to carcass disposal. Presently, a burn ban is effect in Sutton County.

If the animal was housed in a barn, the carcass, bedding, manure, other contaminated material and surrounding soil should be promptly removed and burned.

Producers are also encouraged to follow basic sanitation precautions when handling affected livestock or carcasses, according to TAHC.
The first case of anthrax was confirmed in one captive antelope on a property in Uvalde this past June 19.

Just days later, another case was confirmed in Uvalde on June 24 and one Sutton County horse was confirmed to have anthrax on July 3.
The following day, July 4, cattle on a separate property was confirmed to have anthrax.

A July 16 update by the TAHC said there were three additional premises in southwest Sutton County on one premise in south central Crockett County where animals were confirmed to have anthrax. Another update on July 22, confirmed one new premises in southwest Sutton County raising the number of confirmed cases to six.

As of July 29, 2019, anthrax was confirmed on a property in southeast Sutton County bringing the total number of confirmed cases of anthrax to seven.

An August 6 update showed 18 confirmed cases in 5 counties already identified with nine of those cases confirmed to be in Sutton County.
All six updates are available on the TAHC website.

2019 has become one of the worst years for deaths in livestock and wildlife due to anthrax in Sutton County.

Anthrax is historically found in Crockett, Uvalde, Sutton, Edwards, Kinney and Maverick counties, according to TAHC.

Outbreaks which are common after periods of wet, cool weather, followed by hot, dry conditions usually end with cooler weather.
Cooler temperatures cause anthrax bacteria to become dormant again.

For eligible livestock owners who lost animals due to anthrax, identified as an eligible disease, the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) provides some compensation.

For more information about LIP visit: https://www.fsa.usda.gov. For more information on anthrax visit: https://www.tahc.texas.gov.