Anthrax spores can lead to skin infections and sores when they occur in soil and lung infections when they are airborne. (Wikimedia Commons)

‘Naturally occurring’ anthrax kills 13 bison in northeastern B.C.

Health officials say there is no risk to the public

Naturally-occurring anthrax has killed 13 bison on a farm near Fort St. John in B.C.’s Peace region between Oct. 14-16.

Officials believe the animals were infected by exposure to dormant anthrax spores in the soil of a feeding site, which is no longer being used, the provincial government said Wednesday in a release. It did not say when the deaths occured.

No other animals in the 150-head herd were infected, nor were any people. There is no risk to the general public.

An anthrax vaccine for livestock is available and the rest of the herd on the farm will be vaccinated.

Officials have identified people who might have been in contact with the infection’s source and are following up with them.

Anthrax occurs naturally in livestock on the Prairies and northern Alberta. The bacteria can remain dormant in soil under certain conditions for years.

In soil, it can cause ores and infection on the skin of people who touch it. It can be treated with antibiotics and is considered much less dangerous than airborne anthrax.

The last case of human anthrax in Canada was when two people in Saskatchewan were infected in 2006 during an outbreak among mainly cattle. Their pair recovered fully.

An agriculture ministry spokesperson said that this was the first confirmed case of anthrax in animals in B.C., although veterinary literature describes a possible case 50 years ago.


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