Concerns grow over Canadian bison anthrax outbreak

People downstream of the anthrax outbreak among bison in the Northwest Territories of Canada are worried that the disease could spread from the bison carcasses to their area.

Approximately 230 bison have died over the summer near Fort Providence from anthrax bacteria in the area's soil. Stan Sanguez, the chief of Jean Marie River, expressed concern that the deadly bacteria will spread from the bison carcasses that have fallen into the river and floated downstream, CBC News reports.

"Say eagles and the crows are picking on the carcasses, does that mean that they all die - suddenly they fly off into the bush and they die somewhere else in the bush and it's like a chain reaction?" Sanguez said, according to CBC News.

According to one expert, anthrax is unlikely to spread to humans through the water.

"We don't seem to get waterborne anthrax," David Patrick, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of British Columbia, said, according to CBC News. "The main concern is direct contact with the carcasses of the bison, because once the animal has been gone for a little while the replicating bacteria can form spores which are the infectious ones for humans."

While Patrick said that bison to human anthrax transmission is unlikely, Sanguez still wants to hear reassurance from the N.W.T. Department of Environmental and Natural Resources.

"They need to come to our community to assure our communities that it's still safe," Sanguez said, according to CBC News.