Anthrax outbreak casts shadow
Anthrax found in Wiltshire cow herd
Military may vaccinate 1.5 million troops against anthrax.
Pestivirus and rabies in cattle

Anthrax outbreak casts shadow over homes site

BY MICHAEL HORNSBY ...The Times: Britain:July 22 1996

FEARS of an outbreak of anthrax caused by spores that have lain dormant for decades is delaying the start of a major housing development. Spores of the anthrax bacteria, lying inert in the soil, are thought to have been disturbed by ditch-dredging work on Storridge Farm, near Westbury in Wiltshire, where three cattle have died of the disease since early June.

Anthrax is one of the deadliest and oldest diseases known to man. It can infect human beings as well as livestock and, although it is extremely rare in Britain, in its most severe form is nearly always fatal if not treated promptly with antibiotics.

Local people fear that the spores might have been carried along a stream from an abandoned leather works on the outskirts of Westbury, where infected hides are said to have been buried in the past. The farm is about a mile- and-a-half downstream from the works. The former tannery is on a 50-acre site, mostly now farmland, that has been earmarked for development. West Wiltshire District Council is considering a proposal to build 800 homes, a superstore and a primary school.

Alison Irving, a Liberal Democrat councillor who lives near the old tannery, said: "Local residents are worried that once construction workers start disturbing the site, they could release anthrax spores that have been lying dormant up to now." Concern voiced by Mrs Irving led the council's plan ning committee to defer a decision on the housing scheme and to ask Persimmon Homes, the development company, to analyse soil and water at the site.

David Bardwell, the council's principal environmental officer, said: "We are aware of the site's history and we need to be sure that it is safe for development." He added: "The developers need to be satisfied, too, because their employees would be most at risk." The managing director of Persimmon Homes, Clive Drinkwater, said: "We are in the process of appointing consultants to investigate and report back on the condition of the land. We will then agree with the local authority any work which may need to be undertaken."

There is pressure to develop the site as the council has been allocated 11,000 of the 65,000 houses that the Department of the Environment says Wiltshire must provide by 2011. It is government policy to devel op old industrial sites where possible.

The leather works, which dates from the last century and once employed 200 people, went out of business in 1983 and is a wasteland of broken-down buildings and rusting machinery. In the 1950s, a cluster of anthrax cattle deaths occurred on farms either side of Biss Brook, which runs through the former tannery. There are records showing that the owners paid farmers compensation for the animals.

Former workers at the tan nery say that in the immediate postwar years, imported foreign hides often came with an anthrax warning. One who worked at the plant from 1946 to 1981 remembers two mild cases among employees.

Until the latest outbreak at Storridge Farm, no case of anthrax among cattle had been reported in the area for more than 20 years. It is thought the farmer may have disturbed old anthrax spores while dredging a ditch and spread them unwittingly over adjacent pasture where cattle were grazing.


Anthrax found in Wiltshire cow herd

The Times: Britain: July 6 1996

ANTHRAX, the virulent bacterial disease, has been confirmed in two cows on a farm near Westbury, Wiltshire, the Ministry of Agriculture disclosed yesterday. The farm, which has not been identified, is three miles downstream from a disused tannery where local people say infected hides had been buried more than 30 years ago. The site has been earmarked for a housing development. "It is thought that the farmer may have brought anthrax spores to the surface while digging a field close to the river bank," a Ministry spokesman said.

Anthrax was diagnosed in the first cow on June 10 and in the second on July 1. The disease may be characterised by high fever and diarrhoea but often the animal dies suddenly without showing any signs of sickness. Infection is usually through food or water. Two or three cases of anthrax are notified to the ministry every year. The Wiltshire outbreak is the first this year. Any animal that gets the disease must be burnt and the affected farms quarantined and disinfected.

In November 1994, three cows on a farm in Gloucestershire were infected by anthrax spores thought to have been left in the soil after another animal with the disease had been buried there 52 years ago. Even burial in quicklime is not sufficient to destroy the spores.

In 1942 a canister containing anthrax was exploded over Gruinard Island off northwest Scotland as part of a Second World War experiment in biological warfare. The Ministry of Defence declared the island safe for crofters to return only in 1988, after a two-year decontamination programme.


NZ Veterinary Correspondent
Tue, 2 July 1996

Pestivirus has also been one of my areas of investigation in the vaccine industry. Because of it's small size it does pass through many of the more common filters. The usual filter being used is .2 microns and the common smallest is .07 microns. There has been a statment that 99% of all foetal calf serums have pestivirus present. Foetuses don't mount their own immune response till about day 90 of gestation so the presence of virus prior to that time will not mount an antibody response as it becomes excepted as normal when the immune system becomes active. Co-inidentally, pestivirus has been isolated from children with microencephaly. Although conclusions cannot be drawn, they are worth consideration. Foetal bovine serum is the most common serum used by the biologics industry.

By the way, the US does have vampire bats. The most common cause of rabies in cattle in Texas is the Mexican vampire bat. In the norther states it is the result of attacks on cattle by foxes, badgers and possibly skunks. Since the animal loses its normal fear of larger animals, even a skunk will attack a cow and all it takes is one bite.

I still strongly believe that Marsh's work on downer cow suggests that many of the cases are a BSE situation. The fact that calcium can cause temporary relief is also suggestive of this since we know that prions are involved in mircrotubule formation at synapses for calcium transfer. By overloading the system with calcium, you may in turn temporarily overide the obstruction of faulty microtubules."


Military may vaccinate 1.5 million troops against anthrax

Associated Press ... 3 October 1996

WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary William Perry is considering a Pentagon plan to vaccinate the 1.5 million members of the active-duty military against the deadly biological warfare agent anthrax, senior defense officials said Wednesday. Though final approval could be weeks away, the momentum for the anthrax vaccinations got a major boost when the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended that planning for the $120 million program proceed, Pentagon spokesman Sam Grizzle said.

Gen. John Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave the verbal go-ahead and is expected to send Perry a formal recommendation shortly. Troops deployed to Korea and the Persian Gulf -- considered the highest risk regions for biological warfare -- would be first to receive the six inoculations over 18 months, Grizzle said. Service members within 35 days of going to those areas would be next on the priority list.

The program, described in Wednesday's editions of the Washington Post, marks a reversal of policy among senior commanders, who have worried that the vaccine was costly, not needed and might have worrisome side effects. A defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the vaccine is licensed by the Food and Drug Administration and has been in use since 1970 with ''very few side effects.''

Anthrax is considered the most lethal of biological agents by the U.S. government. Anthrax is an infectious disease that normally afflicts animals, especially cattle and sheep. Veterinarians and others who work with these animals are among those who have been inoculated.

The Anthrax spores are stable and remain viable in water and soil for years. Of greater importance to the Pentagon, anthrax can easily be put into a dry powder form that can be stored as a weapon for long periods. Inhaling even microscopic amounts can be fatal. The inoculation provides effective protection. Military leaders had favored a multipurpose vaccine to counter a variety of biological weapons. And some thought the United States could deter an anthrax attack by threatening a massive retaliation.

But the Pentagon has become increasingly concerned about a possible biological attack. Iraq, Russia and as many as 10 other countries are believed to have the capability to use anthrax in weapons, although no one has used it in battle. ''The whole area of biological warfare was one not very familiar to the chiefs,'' an unidentified senior defense official told the Post. ''It's been a gradual process for the military to recognize the seriousness of the threat and understand the kind of protection that vaccination provides.''

About 150,000 of the more than 500,000 U.S. personnel sent to the Persian Gulf War in 1990 and 1991 were given anthrax vaccinations out of concern that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would use the biological weapon. There has been some speculation that the vaccine may be linked to the Gulf War syndrome illness that many U.S. soldiers have suffered, but no link has been established.