Project aims to improve anthrax strategies

Beef Central, 31/08/2012

A new MLA research project will aim to map Anthrax outbreaks and identify ways of controlling and reducing the impacts of this unpredictable disease.

MLA’s Manager Animal Health and Welfare, Dr Jim Rothwell, said the purpose of the project is to improve knowledge of how the disease spreads, improve diagnostics and prepare for future outbreaks.

“Being able to predict an outbreak would allow producers to vaccinate their animals in advance, instead of reacting to a known outbreak. Improved tools will also be developed to allow fast and simple diagnosis on-farm, resulting in rapid response and reducing the impact should an outbreak occur,” he said.

“Animal deaths from the disease, associated production and market access issues, as well as the potential for human infection make vigilance important,” he said.

The project, being conducted by the Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI), will create a database of different Anthrax strains and map outbreaks to allow investigation of the causes of outbreaks, which are currently not well understood.

Investigating the impact of a changing climate and events like flooding also helps to predict outbreaks, which will allow producers to be better prepared and have more effective vaccination programs.

Anthrax is caused by infection with the bacteria Bacillus anthracis, present in soil. Outbreaks in sheep and cattle are most prominent in Victoria and NSW.

The Victorian Department of Primary Industries states that just prior to death, animals may show signs of high fever.

“Livestock owners usually report unexplained, sudden deaths of livestock. Dark tarry discharges from the external orifices of dead animals are often, but not always, observed.”

Owners of livestock are required to report suspected cases of Anthrax to their local department of agriculture or primary industries office.

If anthrax is suspected, movement of animals from the farm is suspended. Testing usually takes 12-24 hours to confirm if anthrax is present.

Source: Meat and Livestock Australia/Victorian DPI


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