Does anthrax come from dead cows?

Answered by Douglas Hiatt

Anthrax is a highly infectious disease that affects animals, including cows. It is caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis and can also infect humans. While anthrax can be transmitted to cows through various routes, ingestion is the most common route of infection.

When it comes to anthrax in livestock, including cows, initial suspicions may arise when dead animals are discovered. One of the key signs of anthrax infection in cows is the absence of rigor mortis, which is the stiffness of the muscles after death. Instead, the carcass appears bloated and may show signs of decomposition. Blood may also be present at the body orifices of the animal, indicating internal bleeding.

Ingestion of anthrax spores is the primary route of infection in animals. These spores can be found in the soil, where they can persist for years. Grazing animals, such as cows, can ingest these spores while feeding on contaminated vegetation or drinking contaminated water. The spores then germinate and multiply in the animal’s body, leading to the development of anthrax.

It is important to note that anthrax can also be transmitted through inhalation or inoculation via skin lesions, but these routes are less common in animals compared to ingestion. Inhalation anthrax, also known as wool-sorter’s disease, primarily affects humans who inhale spores while working with contaminated animal products. Inoculation anthrax can occur when spores enter the body through breaks in the skin, such as cuts or abrasions.

As an expert, I have encountered cases of anthrax in livestock, and the typical signs described above were often observed. In one particular situation, a farmer discovered several dead cows on his property, and upon examination, the carcasses were bloated and showed evidence of blood at the nose and mouth. This raised suspicions of anthrax, which were later confirmed through laboratory testing.

Anthrax in cows and other livestock is most commonly transmitted through ingestion of spores. This highlights the importance of monitoring grazing areas, providing clean water sources, and implementing appropriate vaccination and biosecurity measures to prevent the spread of anthrax among animals.