Anthrax vaccination of livestock and horses must be considered in anthrax endemic areas in South Louisiana that were recently flooded, according to LSU AgCenter veterinarian Dr. Steve Nicholson.

Nicholson says the current situation is somewhat like the one in 1971.

"In 1971, a spring drought was ended by heavy rains about June 7 in Ascension, St. James and eight nearby parishes," Nicholson says. "Then the first confirmed case of anthrax in cattle came a few days later, and a major outbreak followed."

The disease, called charbon by French speaking cattle owners, apparently survives in the soil as spores for many years.

It tends to reappear in unvaccinated animals following drought/flood cycles, according to Nicholson, who says some cattle herds and horses are vaccinated annually for anthrax in endemic areas of the state.

Cattle, sheep, goats and horses develop immunity within seven to 10 days after vaccination.

"The vaccine is a live product that will not cause the disease," Nicholson says, cautioning, however, "Antibiotics should not be administered to animals for a few days before and after vaccination."

Owners of livestock and horses should contact a veterinarian immediately if some of their animals are found dead - or if they are standing away from the herd and obviously sick.

"If the disease was to appear it would be important to confirm it and properly dispose of carcasses," Nicholson cautions, adding, "Human exposure to blood and other discharges must be avoided."

The LSU AgCenter veterinarian says he doesn’t want to "cry wolf" about a potential outbreak but that it needs to be kept in mind that conditions are right for such an occurrence.

Tom Merrill is a news specialist with the LSU AgCenter.