The extreme weather the Midwest and Plain states have experienced so far this year has brought about another severe consequence: anthrax.
The potentially deadly infectious disease has been found in a bison herd in South Dakota. Health officials claim the threat to humans is minimal and there is no need for alarm. State examiners discovered the anthrax disease in the herd after local ranchers found six bison dead.
Such an anthrax discovery is rare in the United States. Anthrax is a sometimes fatal disease brought about by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis in the ground. When animals graze or people are exposed to activated spores, the disease develops. And it can spread quickly.
Extreme weather events, such as droughts or floods, can expose bacteria spores that lead to anthrax, according to agricultural experts and animal industry trade reports.
South Dakota this year recorded some of its worst weather, with droughts replaced by the wettest periods in the state's history.
"Significant climate change, such as drought, floods and winds can expose anthrax spores to grazing livestock," the South Dakota Animal Industry Board reports. "Alkaline soils, high humidity and high temperatures present conditions for anthrax spores to vegetate and become infectious."
Affected animals are often found dead with no prior illness detected. Once anthrax has been determined as the cause, quarantines are enforced, as well as the burning and burying of carcasses.
This is an important story that should garner more attention. We are experiencing more and extreme weather events in fantastic and record fashions with predictions of more and more to come. Linking extreme climate change to one of the most famous and deadly diseases known deserves not only attention but prevention.
And I am talking about preventative climate change measures, not just the food and health safety protections. Flood mitigation, soil treatment, and wind barriers can help keep the effects of weather at bay, or at least away. It should go without saying that pollutants which exacerbate storms should be further railed in and regulated.
To be sure, anthrax can be found all over the world and commonly strikes non-vaccinated animals, especially in countries with lax food-safety regulations.
Anthrax infected meat isn't typically a concern in the U.S.. Extreme weather may change that.
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