Elk Research Foundation

Project 1601: Anthrax Study in Farmed Elk

Despite being one of the oldest diseases, there is still much to learn about the transmission mechanisms of Bacillus anthracis and the risk of anthrax to wildlife and livestock in North America (Blackburn 2010). In recent years, anthrax outbreaks in North American deer, elk, and bison have illustrated the need to understand the geographic and temporal distribution of anthrax outbreaks throughout the United States and Canada. Such an understanding is required to improve our ability to identify disease surveillance and control measures for these animal populations.

ERC Project 1601 specifically aimed to better identify anthrax risk in captive elk herds in states and provinces with and without a known anthrax history by performing serological testing for antibodies to B. anthracis. Hundreds of elk ranchers live in or near the documented risk zone.

For this project, the ERC will identify participating ranches as being inside, in proximity, or outside of the predicted anthrax risk zone in the United States and Canada. From each participating ranch we would request serum that will be shipped to the University of Florida.

Testing for antibodies is an inexpensive and powerful way to better understand if our estimates of the geography and frequency of anthrax outbreaks accurately defines anthrax risk in the United States and Canada. Recent research in Montana confirms that wild elk are exposed to anthrax and that it can quickly affect a herd. This highlights the need to better understand the disease across its geographic ranges, including farms that have to be prepared to implement surveillance and control measures.

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