Biosecurity

Five cattle dead after anthrax outbreak in Victoria

Sheep Central, February 12, 2024

FIVE beef cattle have died on a property near Shepparton in northern Victoria now quarantined by Agriculture Victoria.

Agriculture Victoria today said its veterinarians and animal health staff are responding to the detection of anthrax on the single beef property in the Shepparton region – where five beef cattle have died.

Following the report on the evening of 8 February, the property was quarantined, and all livestock on the affected property have been vaccinated. Neighbouring properties have also been informed, Agriculture Victoria said.

Victoria’s chief veterinary officer Dr Graeme Cooke said due to early reporting by the impacted farmer and veterinarians, swift action was able to be taken to reduce the likelihood of the detection impacting more livestock.

“Anthrax is caused by a naturally occurring bacteria, Bacillus anthracis, that is known to be present in the soil in parts of Victoria,” Dr Cooke said.

“Incidents of anthrax detected in cattle and sheep in the region occur during the warmer months when it is drier and cattle and sheep forage deeper into the soil when grazing.

“Quarantine controls will not affect the movement of local people, vehicles, or livestock,” he said.

Agriculture Victoria said its veterinarians and animal health officers are working closely with livestock owners in the region, assisting them with surveillance and vaccinations if needed. Anthrax is not a concern for the public.

Agriculture Victoria said anthrax does not spread rapidly and is not contagious for humans and there  is no general public health risk associated with anthrax.

Any risk is confined to people who handle dead livestock such as farmers, veterinarians and knackery workers, and there is no impact on local produce or food safety, but as a precaution, people from the affected farm are being offered treatment, Agriculture Victoria said.

Local farmers, veterinarians and Agriculture Victoria are well prepared to handle these incidents, the State Government division said. Steps includes strict quarantine and biosecurity arrangements, the vaccination of potentially exposed stock and the destruction of the carcasses of affected animals.

Farmers are urged to report any cases of unexplained deaths to the 24-hour Emergency Animal Disease Hotline on 1800 675 888, to your local vet, or to Agriculture Victoria animal health staff on 136 186.

Agriculture Victoria said anthrax has occurred intermittently in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland in recent decades. In Victoria this is often in northern areas of the state, but historically it has been recorded across all of the state in farming areas. The last detection of anthrax in Victoria was in February 2022, near Swan Hill.

An Anthrax factsheet on the Agriculture Victoria website is available answering frequently asked questions and providing more information

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