Biosecurity Queensland is working with the managers of a St George cattle property following the death of approximately 80 animals.

Bacillus anthracis bacteria Image/CDC
Bacillus anthracis bacteria

Testing has indicated the presence of the bacteria that cause anthrax and authorities are working toward containing any further cases in line with the agreed national protocol.

Chief Biosecurity Officer Dr Jim Thompson said anthrax is a naturally occurring bacteria that occurs sporadically in Australia, with a small number of cases each year.

“The last incidence of anthrax in Queensland, which occurred in 2002, was successfully contained,” said Dr Thompson.

“In this latest case, the property owner reported that approximately 80 cattle had died in a short period of time.

“A veterinarian attending the property on Friday took samples from the dead animals in accordance with protocol and sent them to Biosecurity Queensland for testing.

“We commend the veterinarian and property owner for their quick response that will assist us in minimizing the risk to the local industry.

“We have put in place biosecurity orders to restrict the movement of people, stock and vehicles on and off the infected property, and will commence a vaccination program for the remaining cattle and a disposal and decontamination program for the deceased animals.

“Remaining stock have been mustered out to separate them from the contaminated area.

“It’s believed the cattle deaths were caused by the disturbance of contaminated soil, followed by rainfall that distributed the soil containing the bacteria.”

Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said the risk of human exposure to anthrax from animals is generally regarded as very low.

“Public health authorities are in contact with people on the property and the veterinarian,” said Dr Young.

“The veterinarian used appropriate personal protective equipment and eight people, including family and a farm worker, did not have any contact with the dead animals.”

Producers are urged to report any cases of unexplained deaths of animals to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.

Anthrax is a bacterial disease of animals. It is most common in New South Wales, but has occurred sporadically in Victoria and Western Australia.

Before the 2002 Queensland incident, the last record of anthrax in Queensland was on the Marlborough peninsula in 1994.