The Texas Department of State Health Services is sharing steps people can take to protect against naturally-occurring anthrax. Eighteen recent animal deaths in Uvalde County, including two confirmed anthrax cases, have prompted the advice.
Anthrax is caused by spore-forming bacteria commonly found in the soil in southern and southwestern Texas. Deer, sheep, goats, cattle, horses and other animals can contract anthrax when they swallow or inhale anthrax spores while grazing. Animals usually die within two days of showing signs of infection.
Anthrax in humans is rare, though people can contract it through handling a dead or sick animal infected with anthrax. Infection in humans usually occurs through the skin. The infection typically starts out itchy and resembles an insect bite that within two to six days progresses into a painless sore with a depressed black center. Infection can also occur when people consume meat from an infected animal.
While people are susceptible to anthrax infection, no human cases have been reported in Texas this year. Basic precautions can effectively reduce the risk of people contracting anthrax and other diseases from livestock and game animals.
- Avoid direct contact with dead animals, including their bones, horns or antlers.
- Keep pets and children away from dead animals.
- Do not harvest animals that appear ill or are acting abnormally.
- Wear long-sleeved garments and gloves when handling, dressing and processing game.
- Wash hands with soap and water and launder clothes immediately after animal exposure.
- Minimize contact with animal fluids, brain and spinal tissues.
- 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.