ADA, Oklahoma - Anthrax can remain dormant in soil for 60 years, but with widespread flooding throughout the state, there are concerns it could float to the surface and spread.  If the spores are ingested by cattle, death comes quickly and with little warning. 

“If they consume them then we can get the signs of the disease, but normally most ranchers aren’t going to see anything. They will just see dead animals.  It’s a quick disease,” said OSU Cooperative Extension Veterinarian, Dr. Barry Whitworth.

Whitworth said there is a vaccine, but it won’t be released by the state veterinarian unless it’s absolutely necessary.  He says if the disease does appear, there’s little chance of it spreading from animal to animal or making its way to your dinner table.

“I don’t think they would live long enough, I mean they’re going to die quickly if they get infected. It would be just perfect timing for something like that to happen,” said Whitworth.

We haven’t seen a case of anthrax in Oklahoma since the mid 90’s, and no major outbreak since the late 50’s. But experts say the conditions are right for another outbreak especially if we see a rapid drying of the soil.

“People should be observing their cattle frequently and making sure they don’t have any sudden deaths,” Whitworth said. “If you’re lucky to catch it you might see a high fever, some stumbling or trembling, labored breathing, those are the typical signs you would see, but most of them are just going to find them dead.”

If you do spot dead cattle don’t touch them or bury them, call your veterinarian.