Sept. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Italy’s anthrax outbreak widened as the deadly animal disease spread to six more farms in the country’s south, bringing the total affected livestock holdings to 19 since the first confirmed cases almost four weeks ago.
The illness killed livestock in three towns southeast of Naples with previous cases as well as in a village about 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of the first outbreaks, the Italian Ministry of Health said in an alert today published online by the Paris-based World Organization of Animal Health, or OIE.
Anthrax, which has been used as a biological weapon, is caused by spores of the bacterium Bacillus anthracis and can survive in soil years after an outbreak, according to the OIE. Livestock typically become infected by ingesting spores from the soil or in feed, according to the group.
The disease killed cattle and sheep on three farms in Montesano sulla Marcellana, as well as livestock in Accettura and Corleto Perticara, adding to previously reported cases. Italy also found anthrax in Cirigliano, the first case there, according to the alert to the OIE.
The outbreak is continuing, and measures to fight the disease include movement controls for livestock and disinfection of infected premises, the animal-health group said. Animals are not being vaccinated, the OIE said.
French microbiologist Louis Pasteur developed an effective vaccine against the disease in 1881, according to the OIE. Proper disposal of dead animals is critical, and carcasses should not be opened because exposure to oxygen will allow anthrax bacteria to form spores, according to the OIE.
--Editors: Claudia Carpenter, John Deane
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