The Victoria Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) issued an anthrax alert today following the discovery that a Tatura dairy cow had contracted and died from the lethal bacterial disease.

Cow and calf Image/Agricultural Research Services
Cow and calf
Image/Agricultural Research Services

Officials are urging farmers and those working with livestock to be vigilant following the recent death.

DEDJTR’s Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Charles Milne said that the isolated case was confirmed to be from a farm which has a history of anthrax.

“It is not unusual for incidents of anthrax, especially on previously infected farms, to be detected in this region,” Dr Milne said.

“The property has been placed under temporary quarantine and stock on the farm have been vaccinated. Stock on adjoining farms are also being vaccinated.”

“Further sporadic cases are possible across Victoria which is why we are calling on those working with livestock to be vigilant.”

“Farmers in the region should check their paddocks for sudden, unexplained deaths among their animals and report any cases to the 24-hour Emergency Animal Diseases Hotline on 1800 675 888 or to their local vet.”

Incidents of anthrax generally occur during the warmer months when it is drier and the livestock forage closer to the soil when eating grass, the last isolated outbreak occurred in 2009.

LISTEN: Dr Floron (Buddy) C. Faries, Professor & Extension Veterinarian, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and with the National Center for Foreign Animal & Zoonotic Disease Defense discusses animal anthrax Nov. 19, 2013. 

Anthrax is a pathogen in livestock and wild animals. Some of the more common herbivores are cattle, sheep, goats, horses, camels and deers.

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

Anthrax is caused by the bacterium, Bacillus 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.

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 eventually kill the animal.

The bacteria will form spores in the carcass and then return to the soil to infect other animals. The vegetativeform is rarely implicated in transmission.

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: cutaneous, gastrointestinal and inhalation.

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