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Anthrax cases prompt advisory

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Posted: Wednesday, July 3, 2019 12:00 pm

Eighteen recent animal deaths in Uvalde County, including two confirmed anthrax cases, prompted the Texas Department of State Health Services late last month to help people understand the steps they can take to protect themselves against naturally-occurring anthrax.

Anthrax is caused by spore-forming bacteria that is commonly found in the soil in southern and southwestern Texas, the department said in a news release.

Deer, sheep, goats, cattle, horses and other animals can contract anthrax by taking in anthrax spores while grazing.  Once they exhibit signs of an infection, animals usually die within two days, the release said.

Anthrax in humans is rare, though people can contract it by handling a sick or dead animal infected with anthrax. Humans typically are infected through the skin.

The department said the infection normally starts out itchy and resembles an insect bite that within two-to-six days becomes a painless sore with a depressed black center.

Infection also can occur when people consume infected meat.

While people are susceptible to anthrax, no case of anthrax in humans has been reported in Texas this year.

Basic precautions that are recommended to reduce the risk of exposure to anthrax and other diseases from livestock and game animals include:

• Avoid direct contact with dead animals, including their bones, horns and antlers;

• Keep pets and children away from dead animals;

• Do not harvest animals that appear ill or are acting strangely;

• 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.

The department recommended that people contact a doctor if they develop an unusual-looking sore on their hands, arms or other exposed skin.

Although it is very rare to contract skin anthrax, the infection requires treatment with antibiotics prescribed by a physician.

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