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Following the anthrax outbreak that killed 80 animals in St George in Queensland, Australia one year ago, recent cases near St George is prompting calls for livestock producers to ensure their animals are vaccinated.

Agricultural Research Service/USDA
Agricultural Research Service/USDA

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries, Mark Furner said there had been a recent anthrax case near St George, which resulted in a small number of cattle deaths.

“Our officers moved quickly to contain the disease on that individual property by immediately restricting all movement of livestock on and off that location,” Mr Furner said.

“The owners undertook vaccination of all remaining cattle to minimise the risk of further spread.

“The rapid action of staff is testament to the Palaszczuk Government’s ongoing commitment to biosecurity in Queensland.

“Ensuring our primary production remains a world leader in food safety is one of the top priorities of this government.”

Biosecurity Queensland’s Chief Veterinary Officer Allison Crook said the investigation of this case had now been completed and the property was no longer under movement restrictions.

“This incident indicates that anthrax spores may be present in and around the St George district and livestock grazing locally may be at risk of infection,” Dr Crook said.

“Graziers should have a biosecurity plan in place and consult with their local veterinary practitioner to decide what specific measures they should take to protect their livestock and property against anthrax.

“This can include keeping livestock away from soil disturbances caused by earthworks or flooding, and undertaking preventative vaccination.

“Producers should always be monitoring the health of their stock and immediately seek veterinary advice in the event of sudden deaths. Unexplained deaths of animals should be reported to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.”

Anthrax is a bacterial pathogen in livestock and wild animals. Some of the more common herbivores are cattle, sheep,goats, horses, camels and deer. Anthrax is a very serious disease of livestock because it can potentially cause the rapid lossof a large number of animals in a very short time. Affected animals are often found dead with no illness detected.

It infects humans primarily through occupational or incidental exposure with infected animals of their skins.

When conditions become favorable, the spores germinate into colonies of bacteria. An example would be a grazing cow ingests spores that in the cow, germinate, grow spread and eventuallykill the animal. Anthrax is caused by the bacteriumBacillus anthracis. This spore forming bacteria can survive in the environment for years because of its ability to resist heat, cold, drying, etc.  This is usually the infectious stage of anthrax.

The bacteria will form spores in the carcass and then return to the soil to infect other animals. The vegetative form is rarely implicated in transmission.  Strict enforcement of quarantines and proper burning and burying of carcasses from livestock suspected to have died from anthrax is important to prevent further soil contamination with the bacterial spores.

There are no reports of person-to-person transmission of anthrax. People get anthrax by handling contaminated animal or animal products, consuming undercooked meat of infected animals and more recently, intentional release of spores.

There are three types of human anthrax with differing degrees of seriousness: cutaneousgastrointestinal and inhalation.