Anthrax Kills 42 Horses in Nicaragua

According to a Feb. 10 proMED report, a virulent anthrax outbreak has caused the deaths of 42 horses from rural communities in the municipalities of Pueblo Nuevo and Condega in Nicaragua. The report was made from a translation of a story in the Nicaraguan newspaper, La Prensa (

Anthrax is characterized by a high fever (up to 107°F) and a quick death. Infected horses frequently have ventral edema, or swelling, and obvious sickness. Anthrax is typically transmitted through the interrupted feeding of horse flies (Tabanidae) or through the horse's natural grazing activity. Rigor mortis is absent or incomplete in an anthrax carcass, and equine carcasses often have dark blood oozing from the mouth, nostrils, and anus. Laboratory confirmation of infection  is based on finding the bacterium Bacillus anthracis in a blood sample or blood culture. Learn more about anthrax at

The proMED report said that Sergio Torrez Rivera, a veterinarian and regional coordinator of animal health for the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, reported that the outbreak of the fatal disease was controlled through the subsequent vaccination of animals in the affected villages.

"In Condega, the disease affected the communities of Honduras Azul, San Jose de Pire, El Algodonal, Potrerillos, Nispero, and Las Labranzas 1 and 2, while in Pueblo Nuevo, it affected the villages of La Palagua, El Rosario, and La Pava," read the report. "Torrez indicated that this was a sporadic outbreak that had been controlled and explained that farmers had neglected to vaccinate their animals, particularly horses, resulting in the propagation of the disease."

In 2002, anthrax killed 15 horses in the area of Las Brisas, in Santa Maria, a municipality on the border with
Honduras. According to proMED-mail Animal Disease Assistant Moderator, Martin Hugh-Jones, "The disease is erratically reported in Nicaragua: 10 outbreaks (16 cases) in 2001, three (13) in 2000, and three (47) in 1996. A 'sporadic' outbreak affecting 10 villages is more characteristic of the disease being spread by horse flies."

There has been a recent equine encephalitis outbreak in Honduras and while taking appropriate measures to avoid introduction of the disease into Nicaragua, Animal Health Department officials discovered the anthrax cases.

ProMED-mail. Anthrax, livestock- Nicaragua. ProMED-mail 2003; 10 Feb: 20030210.0359. Accessed 11 Feb 2003.

About the Author

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.

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