OK State Officials Confirm Altus Livestock Anthrax Case
If you were over the age of about ten in the days after 9/11, you're no stranger to the fears of anthrax. It was used as an attack mechanic by terrorists all over the world. While the sensationalism surrounding this terrible disease subsided as events seemingly ended, the media never really explained the full extent and just how often we're exposed to it on a daily basis, especially in Southwest Oklahoma.
For the first time in some twenty-five years, a case of anthrax has been confirmed in an Oklahoma cow way out in Jackson County. That's where Altus and Altus Air Force Base is. Oddly enough, a case of bovine anthrax was also just confirmed in Hardeman County Texas too, just a half mile off the Oklahoma line, right across the river from Jackson County Oklahoma. That case is the second confirmed case in Texas this year. It has some wondering who is committing acts of terror against the beef, but that's another story altogether... It's naturally occurring.
It's not common knowledge, but anthrax isn't a substance, it's a disease. You technically can't mail someone anthrax. What causes it is a bacteria called bacillus anthracis. Ever since the great Oklahoma livestock anthrax outbreak of 1957, researchers learned a crazy fact... The bacteria that causes anthrax freely lives in the soil in this part of the country.
It's all around us. Whether you tilled the soils on a farm, slid into a base playing ball, went hiking a dusty trail, worked in the garden, dug a hole or even spent time outside on one of our famously windy days, odds are you and I have both been exposed to anthrax. The difference is, the anthrax bacteria that lives in the soil is overtly dormant in nature. Animals end up contracting it by living and eating in the dirt.
Here's an odd fact... Cases of anthrax in the livestock can be spread to humans. When this disease was first discovered, it was commonly found in people that processed animal hides and leathers. Back then it was called "wool sorters disease." After scientists did their thing, a vaccine was produced and those in that industry are still routinely vaccinated today to prevent it.
So what are these farmers to do about these anthrax cases in their livestock? Well, it's usually discovered after the animal is found dead, and the standard operating procedure is to either burn the carcass, bury it, or both. While there's just been three cases in Oklahoma and Texas in 2021, lets hope this doesn't grow any larger and add something else to the madness we're all living with at the moment.