In a follow-up on the anthrax situation in Swan Hill, Victoria, Australia, Agriculture Victoria reports sheep deaths on four properties near Swan Hill have been confirmed as being caused by anthrax in March.

Bacillus anthracis bacteria Image/CDC
Bacillus anthracis bacteria

Agriculture Victoria on Monday said it was continuing to respond to the anthrax outbreak to include vaccinating animals–“There have been around 4300 animals vaccinated to date, including 4032 sheep, 109 cattle, 139 pigs and 12 goats,”according to Victoria’s Chief Veterinary Officer Charles Milne Monday.

Anthrax is an infectious bacterial disease of animals, caused by the spore-forming bacteria Bacillus anthracis. It can affect humans and a wide range of animals; however, nearly all cases in Victoria have been seen in livestock, particularly cattle and sheep.

Anthrax is well known to occur intermittently in grazing livestock and there have been sporadic cases in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland in recent decades. For Victoria, most of these cases have been in northern or north eastern parts of the state and have largely involved cattle. Usually only a small number of deaths occur on each affected farm.

Cattle and sheep with anthrax die suddenly. Just prior to death, animals may show signs of high fever. Blood may be present around the nose, mouth and anus of carcasses. However, in many cases you may not see this sign, so it should not be relied upon to diagnose anthrax. If livestock die suddenly, even when there is no history of anthrax on the property, anthrax could potentially be the cause.

Agriculture Victoria says there is no concern for the general public as anthrax does not spread rapidly and affected farms have been quarantined.