Further anthrax cases in Swan Hill

File photo.
File photo.

Agriculture Victoria is continuing to respond to further anthrax cases in sheep across two non-contiguous premises in the Swan Hill district.

It follows a Swan Hill farm being quarantined on March 6 when more than 30 sheep suddenly died on the property.

A further suspected case of anthrax, confirmed by laboratory testing over the weekend, was detected at a separate but related property on Friday, March 10.

Two nearby locations have now had sheep return positive tests for anthrax, thereby bringing the total number of confirmed positive test locations to four.

Agriculture Victoria said it was important to note the new locations are adjacent to the premises already identified on March 10.

Each of the infected premises have been quarantined and movement of livestock is being investigated, including to other premises.

The response to these additional cases has been swift and comprehensive with the Incident Management Team already in Swan Hill.

Anthrax does occur in Victoria from time to time and it is not entirely unusual for the disease to emerge at this time of the year, with notable outbreaks in 1997 and 2007.

Victoria’s chief veterinary officer Charles Milne said anthrax was not contagious and rarely spread between animals and humans.

“This isn't something where there is risk to the general public. You need really close contact with carcasses. It’s abattoir workers, knackery workers and vets who tend to get issues, which is a skin infection that is readily controlled by antibiotics,” he said. 

“The method of infection is when an animal dies and their blood becomes exposed to oxygen, it forms very resistant spores that form in the soil. 

Anthrax has been recognised in Australia as a cause of sudden death in farm animals, particularly sheep and cattle for more than 150 years. 

The last documented case of human anthrax in Victoria was a knackery worker, infected in 2007, who had contact with an infected carcass, developed the cutaneous form of anthrax, was treated and recovered.