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Anthrax detected in cow on Wiltshire farm: What is anthrax?

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A case of anthrax has been discovered in a cow in Wiltshire - the first case in an animal since 2006.

The cow has been incinerated. It's been confirmed no cattle from the field have entered the food chain and there are restrictions on the farm at Westbury.

Wiltshire Council say they're taking "swift action" to deal with the case.

File image of cow Credit: PA: Frank May

What is anthrax?

  • Anthrax is a serious infectious disease caused bacteria known as Bacillus anthracis.
  • Anthrax can be found naturally in soil and commonly affects domestic and wild animals around the world.

How do animals get infected with anthrax?

  • Domestic and wild animals such as cattle, sheep, goats, antelope, and deer can become infected when they breathe in or ingest spores in contaminated soil, plants, or water.

Risk to humans?

  • Anthrax symptoms begin with a flu-like illness.
  • This is then followed by respiratory difficulties.
  • Direct contact with anthrax can cause raised boil-like lesions on the skin which develop a black centre. This skin infection normally responds to early treatment with antibiotics.
  • If you inhale anthrax spores, they can cause damage to the lungs, which is often fatal.

How is anthrax spread?

  • Anthrax is spread when its spores are inhaled, ingested, or come into contact with skin lesions.
  • The spores can survive for decades or even centuries.
  • They are found on infected animal carcasses, wool, hair and hides.

If you suspect anthrax you must contact the Animal and Plant Health Agency. Anthrax is a notifiable disease which means failure to report it is an offence.

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