Anthrax cases cleared in Southern Washoe

Clean-up crews, determined to stop an anthrax outbreak that has killed 25 cows and one horse in southern Washoe County, on Thursday burned three carcasses that had been overlooked earlier.

Six government agencies, including a hazardous materials crew from the Nevada Air National Guard in Carson City, worked on the cleanup.

The three remaining carcasses were discovered after ranchers from Damonte Ranch and a visiting rancher from California had reported dead cows last week.

On Thursday, three cows were burned and buried to prevent the disease's spread.

"Something has caused this to come to the surface and we don't know what it is," Department of Agriculture spokesman Paul Iverson said. "It's probably the first outbreak in 10 years. We don't know if it's the weather, the humidity or what."

Iverson said when dead cows were found last week, they were buried at least four feet deep to minimize the danger of the virus spreading. The carcasses that were burned Thursday had been exposed to animals and decomposition. Once the bodies start to break down, the virus can easily be transferred to other warm-blooded animals.

"When the predators tear it up, it can really become a nasty spot as far as anthrax spores," he said. "Spores can last for decades."

The variety of anthrax that infected local cows is not dangerous to people, officials said. However, cattle in Northern Nevada must be immunized.

Iverson said since the outbreak was discovered, ranchers have ordered vaccinations. The California rancher had not immunized his cattle yet.

The Nevada Air Guard sent two Humvee vehicles, as well as two trained workers on Thursday. They served as advisers, and took the crew into the rough terrain. "Their job is to train people how to work in a chemical or biological environment," Col. Cindy Kirkland said.

Iverson said a civilian version of napalm was spread on the carcasses and ignited with a blow torch, "burning them to the bone instantly."

The wild horse will be burned on Monday, he said.

Other anthrax cases have been reported in Gerlach.


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