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UK Finds Isolated Case of Anthrax In A Cow in Southwest England

( [email protected] ) Oct 27, 2015 11:25 AM EDT
The first case in Britain of anthrax in livestock for nearly 10 years has been confirmed by health authorities in Wiltshire, southwest England, where a cow died of the disease last week.
AP photo

The first case in Britain of anthrax in livestock for nearly 10 years has been confirmed by health authorities in Wiltshire, southwest England, where a cow died of the disease last week.

Anthrax is a naturally occurring bacterial disease which primarily affects herbivorous animals. The last livestock case in Britain was in 2006.

"An isolated case of anthrax in a cow has been confirmed at a farm in the Westbury area ... following the death of a cow at the end of last week," the local authority, Wiltshire Council, said in a statement.

The cow has now been incinerated and movement restrictions are in place at the farm but the council said there was little risk of human infection.

"The risk of infection in close human contacts of the animal is very low, and partners are in touch with any potential contacts to offer public health advice however there are no risks to the wider community," it added in the statement issued jointly with Public Health England, a government-sponsored agency.

The council said the last case of human infection with anthrax in Britain was in 2008.

Commenting on the case, Dr Derek Gatherer, Lecturer in Biomedical and Life Sciences at Lancaster University, said cases in humans were very rare.

"Almost all human cases occur in individuals involved in processing animal products, either for food or in the animal wool/skins industry and 95 per cent of these are via skin infection," he said in a statement. 

Vaccines are available but their use in humans has been generally confined to the military, given concern about the use of anthrax spores as a biological weapon, he added.

"Unlike with bird flu and foot-and-mouth, there is unlikely to be any necessity for a cull given the absence of direct transmission from cow to cow or cow to human," he said.

 

(Reporting by Stephen Addison, editing by Elizabeth Piper)