WINNIPEG, Manitoba (B)--The Manitoba Conservation department is advising hunters in the province not to handle any dead deer, elk, or bear found in the Rural Municipality of Stuartburn, because of the recent outbreak of anthrax in an isolated areas near Vita in southeast Manitoba, according to a government news release. Vita is about 120 kilometers southeast of Winnipeg.

Twenty-six beef cattle have died on five Manitoba farms in the Vita area that are experiencing an anthrax outbreak, Dr. George Luterbach, veterinarian with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, said Aug 23.

The disease mainly affects cattle, sheep, and horses, and is caused by naturally occurring bacteria in the soil, the release said. While the risk of wildlife and humans contracting the disease is minimal, hunters who see a dead deer, elk, or bear in the area are advised not to approach or handle the animal, the release said. It added that the location should be noted and reported to the nearest Manitoba Conservation office or the federal district veterinarian.

The department said there is little risk of harvesting a wild animal infected with the disease because of the low risk of disease transfer to wild animals. Also, once the disease is contracted, the animal would become "acutely sick" and die very quickly.

The release noted that hunters with cuts or skin abrasions should wear rubber gloves to avoid exposure to possible contamination. It added that in the event an infected, healthy-looking animal is harvested, hunters can reduce risk by thoroughly cooking the meat prior to consumption.

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