Anthrax Confirmed in Texas Horse

On Aug. 20, officials at the Texas Animal health Commission (TAHC) confirmed anthrax in a horse residing on an Armstrong County premises. This is the state’s third case of anthrax and first equine case in 2021. Previous cases have involved a cow in Hardeman County and a captive white-tailed deer.

“This is not the first time we have seen anthrax in Armstrong County,” said Andy Schwartz, DVM, TAHC state veterinarian and executive director in a statement. “Last September, we received confirmation of the disease in a bull on another premises, which serves as a great reminder for producers in the area to vaccinate their animals with the proven and dependable anthrax vaccine.”

Anthrax is a deadly disease caused by Bacillus anthracis, a spore-forming bacterium that occurs worldwide. If the carcass of an animal that dies from anthrax isn’t handled and disposed of properly, the bacteria can lie dormant in the soil and resurface under specific weather conditions. Increases in anthrax cases are common after periods of wet, cool weather, followed by hot, dry conditions, the state’s release said. During these conditions, animals ingest the anthrax bacteria when they consume contaminated grass and hay or inhale the spores. Outbreaks usually end when cooler weather arrives.

Animals typically exhibit clinical signs of disease three to seven days after anthrax exposure, and death usually occurs within 48 hours. Clinical signs of anthrax in horses and other animals include:

  • Acute fever;
  • Staggering;
  • Depression;
  • Difficulty breathing;
  • Seizures;
  • Dark blood oozing from the mouth, nose, and anus; and
  • Sudden death.

Humans are also susceptible to anthrax infection.