Anthrax confirmed in Victorian sheep
Anthrax was confirmed on a sheep property located north-west of Swan Hill on 3 March 2017. The affected property has been quarantined and the sheep on this and surrounding ‘At Risk’ properties have been vaccinated. Anthrax has typically been diagnosed in dairy cattle in the Goulburn Valley in recent decades, with Swan Hill located outside of the historic anthrax “belt”. This is only the fifth recorded case of anthrax diagnosed in Victorian sheep since 1950.
This diagnosis highlights the need to consider anthrax as a differential diagnosis whenever unexplained sudden death occurs in sheep, cattle, or other susceptible species in Victoria, regardless of the location. Grazing herbivores (e.g. cattle and sheep) are infected through ingesting spores present in contaminated soils, while browsers (e.g. deer) may ingest the pathogen on contaminated foliage.
Once ingested, the bacteria produces potent toxins that cause the clinical signs of anthrax including fever, inappetence, lethargy or sudden death, often with a blood-stained exudate visible at the nose, mouth and/or anus. Anthrax is a notifiable disease. If you suspect anthrax immediately contact your local Agriculture Victoria Veterinary Officer or phone the all-hours Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline (1800 675 888).
A screening test (immunochromatographic test; ICT) for anthrax is available for field testing of cattle and sheep carcasses. The ICT must be used before a post-mortem examination is considered or the carcass is moved, and can only be used by veterinary practitioners who are accredited by Agriculture Victoria. Contact your local Veterinary Officer if you would like to become accredited to use the ICT.
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