Reminder: Protect Yourself From Anthrax
The Texas Department of State Health Services is urging hunters and ranchers to take precautions to protect themselves from diseases transmitted by animals. Deer, sheep, goats, cattle, horses and other animals can contract anthrax, a bacterium that can cause a severe, life-threatening disease in both humans and animals. The first case of anthrax this year was recently confirmed in a sable antelope herd on a ranch in Edwards County, an area of West Texas where anthrax is most likely to occur. Animals usually get the disease by swallowing anthrax spores while grazing. Anthrax is a naturally occurring disease with worldwide distribution, including Texas. “Hunters and livestock owners should be aware of anthrax cases in their area and take steps to protect themselves, such as not touching sick or dead animals,” said Dr. Tom Sidwa, manager of the Zoonosis Control Branch at DSHS. “Basic precautions can minimize the chance of contracting anthrax or other diseases transmitted by wildlife.” People usually get anthrax through handling a dead or sick animal infected with anthrax. Anthrax infection in humans usually involves infection of the skin. Skin infection is typically itchy and resembles an insect bite. Within two to six days it progresses into a painless ulcer with a depressed black center. Although humans are susceptible to anthrax infection, no cases have been reported in Texas this year. Basic precautions can effectively reduce the risks of humans contracting anthrax and other diseases from livestock and game animals. • Do not harvest animals that appear ill or are acting abnormally. • Wear long-sleeved garments and gloves when handling, dressing and processing game. • Use sanitary practices such as hand washing with soap and water and laundering clothes immediately after animal exposure. • Minimize contact with animal fluids, brain and spinal tissues. • Keep pets and children away from dead animals. • Avoid direct contact with animal bones, horns or antlers. • Cook all meat until well done before consuming. People should contact a doctor if they develop an unusual-looking sore on the hands, arms or other exposed skin. Although it is very rare to contract skin anthrax, this infection requires treatment with antibiotics prescribed by a physician.