Anthrax is a naturally occurring disease caused by the spore forming bacterium Bacillus anthracis. It can affect deer, livestock, exotic livestock, horses, swine, dogs and humans. The bacteria can remain alive, but dormant in the soil for years. After periods of wet, cool weather, followed by hot, dry conditions, the bacteria can surface, contaminating the soil and grass. Animals ingest the anthrax bacteria when they consume contaminated grass and hay, or by inhaling the spores. Outbreaks will usually end when cooler weather arrives, and he bacteria becomes dormant.

After exposure, it usually takes three to seven days for animals to show symptoms of anthrax. Once symptoms begin, death will usually occur within 48 hours. Acute fever followed by rapid death with bleeding from body openings are all common signs of anthrax in livestock. Carcasses may also appear bloated and appear to decompose quickly. Symptoms may include the following:

  • Sudden death
  • Dark blood oozing from mouth, nose and anus
  • Acute fever
  • Staggering
  • Depression
  • Difficulty breathing

Infection is usually less severe in swine, horses, dogs and humans.

Anthrax is a reportable disease in Nebraska. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture should be notified of all suspected and confirmed cases of anthrax.