Vet Watch

Welcome to the first edition of Vet Watch for 2016.
Charles MilneThis year we have introduced a new newsletter format with a stronger emphasis on providing you with information that you can use in your day-to-day veterinary activities. Each edition will contain information on disease investigations that have been undertaken by veterinarians, both private and government, across the State in the past few months. Current diseases of importance, such as Klebsiella pneumoniae in pigs and pigeon paramyxovirus (PPMV1), and a case report from a district veterinary officer on chronic copper toxicity in lambs have been included in this edition.

We are working towards the newsletter becoming an important source of information that you can easily pass onto your clients. A useful new feature are newsletter "grabs"; 1-2 paragraphs and a photo or two that you can download to disseminate to your clients through your own clinic newsletter, if appropriate.

We welcome your feedback. Please forward your comments to or contact Jaimie Hunnam (Principal Veterinary Officer - Epidemiology) on (03) 9217 4351.

Charles Milne
Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO)
Agriculture Victoria

Animal health and welfare information for Victorian veterinary practitioners is available at VetSource 

Quarterly Stats: Around the State
Summary of all animal investigations undertaken by the department around Victoria from November 2015 to January 2016.

To have a closer look at the disease investigations undertaken in your region, by species, between November 2015 and January 2016, please click on the link below:

Gippsland Region
North east Region
North west Region
South west Region

Hot Topics
BREAKING NEWS: An outbreak of clinical Klebsiella pneumoniae in Victoria piglets

Jaimie Hunnam (Principal Veterinary Officer – Epidemiology) Chief Veterinary Officer’s Unit; DEDJTR

Consider Klebsiella pneumoniae as a differential diagnosis in apparent sudden death in pigs, particularly in pre-weaned piglets

In late January 2016, an outbreak of deaths in 25 (10-14 days of age) out of a total of 82 piglets was reported on a Victorian property. Although initially assumed to be due to infection with E. coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae was subsequently identified as the causative agent. By early February 2016, the same farm had a further 35 piglets die from a total at risk population of 150 piglets (10-14 days of age). The diagnosis of an outbreak of clinical Klebsiella pneumoniae infection in Australian pigs is considered rare, with only four other occasions reported.


Klebsiella pneumoniae is a commensal of the healthy porcine alimentary tract and is recognized as a cause of sporadic disease in individual pigs (e.g. mastitis in sows), typically concurrent with other infections. Klebsiella is also present within the environment, both in soil and water. Outbreaks of clinical Klebsiella infection occur in pre-weaned pigs that are in good body condition. The predominant clinical presentation is of piglets found dead, although a few may be found recumbent, cyanosed and mouth breathing, rapidly followed by death. Mortality rates in UK outbreaks have been estimated at 1-4%, with one piglet dying per affected litter. The duration of disease within UK herds has varied from 7-10 weeks to >12 weeks, at a reducing rate over time. Lesions at post-mortem are non-specific, with the most consistent finding being the presence of fibrin strands in the abdominal cavity. Ventral skin reddening, serosal haemorrhages, pleural effusion and/or reddened lymph nodes may also be observed.

The cause of an outbreak of clinical Klebsiella is unknown and there is no specific advice available on control. Once piglets are weaned, there tends to be no reports of continuing disease. On the case farm, although the hygiene in the farrowing house was described as extremely good, there had been a problem with >40oC temperatures in the weeks prior to the outbreak. Sows had been cooling themselves by playing with the drinkers and wetting the creep area. Sawdust and wood shavings had been placed over the wet areas and there is some evidence that the use of sawdust increases the risk of Klebsiella infection. Alternative methods are now being used to dry any wet areas.
Although Klebsiella pneumoniae can infect humans, causing pneumonia, urinary tract infection and neonatal septicaemia, it is not recognized as a zoonosis as infections are typically hospital-acquired and tend to affect immune-compromised patients. There is no evidence of a link between the virulent Klebsiella strain from pigs and human disease due to Klebsiella infection.

Use this newsletter grab to highlight this outbreak of clinical Klebsiella to your pig clients.

Increasing incidence of Strangles in Victorian horses

Karen Moore (Senior Surveillence Officer) Chief Veterinary Officer’s Unit; DEDJTR

Remember: Strangles is a notifiable disease in Victoria please call the Department’s Customer Service Centre on 136 186 within 7 days of diagnosis
Strangles is an infectious disease of horses, ponies and donkeys caused by the bacterium Streptococcus equi subsp. equi. Outbreaks typically follow the mixing of horses or introduction of new horses, with clinical signs including pyrexia, loss of appetite, symmetrically enlarged retropharyngeal, submandibular and/or submaxillary lymph nodes and a mucopurulent nasal discharge. Younger horses are most susceptible and the isolation of infected horses for 6-8 weeks is essential to prevent bacterial spread.
During 2015 and 2016, there was a significant increase in the number of reported cases of Strangles in horses across Victoria, with 65 cases (from 57 different properties) reported between May 2015 and February 2016. Prevention of Strangles involves monitoring, and preferably quarantining, of any new horses for at least 3 weeks post-arrival. Horses that regularly attend studs, shows or camps should be vaccinated. Although vaccination does not always prevent clinical disease, it will reduce the severity and duration and will reduce disease spread during an outbreak.

Strangles is a notifiable disease in Victoria under the Livestock Disease Control Act 1994 and must be reported within 7 days to a Department veterinary officer or animal health officer. The requirement to notify ensures that, particularly in cases where multiple horses are affected and there has not been laboratory confirmation of a diagnosis, the possibility of the presence of exotic diseases (especially equine influenza) can be ruled out. No regulatory action is taken and properties are not placed under quarantine, but the implementation of biosecurity measures is imperative to reduce the risk of disease spread. 


Count of Victorian properties with one more reported cases of Strangles in horses from 2010 to 2016.
To find out more visit Information for the Control of Strangles on the Agriculture Victoria website

To assist you in managing enquiries about Strangles, the Equine Veterinarians of Australia group have developed the following information sheet with advice on treatment and management of the condition.
Equine Veterinarians of Australia advice on treatment and management of Strangles


Location of Victorian properties that contained one or more horses diagnosed with Strangles between 2014 and 2016 (2014 = red; 2015 = orange; 2016 = grey)

PPMV1 on the rise in Victorian pigeons

  Yonatal Segal (Principal Veterinary Officer – Poultry and Emerging Diseases) Chief Veterinary Officer’s Unit; DEDJTR

Remember: If you suspect PPMV1 call the Department’s Customer Service Centre on 136 186 within 12 hours. 

Avian Paramyxovirus type 1 (PPMV1) is a viral infection that can spread rapidly and cause high rates of pigeon illness and death. The first PPMV1 detection was in Victoria in 2011 and it has since become endemic in domestic and feral pigeons in Victoria, NSW, Tasmania and SA. PPMV1 has recently been diagnosed in a number of premises across Victoria.

PPMV1 can cause mortality rates of 100% within a loft, with death occurring within three days. Clinical signs include lethargy, regurgitation, green diarrhoea, neck twisting, circling, head flicking, laboured breathing and runny eyes and beak. There is no treatment for PPMV1. Any suspected dead bird or samples (organs and/or swabs) should be forwarded in an Esky with ice packs to AgriBio state laboratory (Bundoora; Melbourne).

PPMV1 can survive for several weeks in the environment in contaminated faeces and other discharges, especially in cool weather. Biosecurity procedures, such as cleaning and disinfecting footwear and washing hands and clothes after visiting other birds, keeping lofts and equipment clean and preventing wild birds from having contact with pigeons, can reduce the risk of PPMV1 introduction.

Although there is no currently registered PPMV1 vaccine for use in Australian pigeons, a Newcastle Disease chicken vaccine can be used ‘off label’. Subcutaneous vaccine administration at the base of the neck or in the loose skin between the leg and body in two applications 4 weeks apart, will provide adequate protection against PPMV1.

The vaccines should be kept at between 4-8oC (i.e. not frozen). Vaccinate all pigeons in a loft to optimize loft protection. Give the first vaccine dose to young pigeons around the time of weaning (i.e. 4 weeks of age) and the second dose four weeks later when they are moved from the breeding loft to the race loft with older pigeons.

Human infection with this virus is rare and usually occurs only in people who have close, direct contact with infected birds. The virus causes mild flu-like symptoms.

If you’d like to provide your clients with further information on PPMV1 in pigeons, you can use this newsletter grab.
                                                           Count of Victorian properties with one or more cases of PPMV1 in pigeons from 2011 to 2016.

Bat Lyssavirus Infectious

  Stephen Tate (Principal Veterinary Officer – Animal Welfare) Chief Veterinary Officer’s Unit; DEDJTR

Read this first before handling bats

Victorian practitioners should note the recent confirmation of Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABLV) in one adult and three juvenile grey-headed flying foxes rescued from a Central Coast flying fox roost on 9 November 2015. The bats were found amongst numerous dead juvenile flying foxes under the roost. The adult was showing neurological signs that were initially assumed to be related to a head injury, and it died the next day. The three juveniles were estimated to be 3 to 4 weeks old and ate well and grew until around 23 November when they began to show nervous system signs. One died and one was euthanised on 26 November and the third died on 27 November. The NSW Health Department through local Public Health Units have assessed over 100 people who may have had contact with the infected bats. To date, nineteen people, some with significant exposures, have been provided with post exposure treatment.
ABLV can occur in Vic, and has been confirmed on 10 occasions in bats since 1995. We have grey flying foxes here in abundance and other Vic bats are susceptible. More detail is available from the Wildlife Health Australia website (ABLV Wildlife Health Australia.pdf )

The following lessons come from the NSW experience:
  1. Always use Personal Protective Equipment when handling bats even if they appear healthy (Refer to the AVA Guidelines for veterinary personal biosecurity)
  2. Any person handling bats should be vaccinated against rabies.
  3. DO NOT allow bats of any age, whether healthy or sick to be handled or touched by children or other people who do not have a current rabies vaccination.
  4. Beware of the exposure of pets to bats.
Wildlife Victoria will coordinate the response to reports of sick, injured or orphaned bats by experienced volunteers (1300 094 535). The Department of Health and Human Services Communicable Diseases Unit can advise on human exposure (1300 651 160). DEDJTR  will manage outbreaks where animals are affected and provide technical information and support for disease investigations  (DEDJTR Customer Service Centre: 136 186  or Emergency Animal Disease Hotline: 1800 675 888).

Real-time training for a worst-case scenario

  Cameron Bell, (Manager Veterinary Services) Chief Veterinary Officer’s Unit; DEDJTR
Foot and mouth disease (FMD) is a highly contagious viral disease of cloven hooved animals and is exotic to Australia. An outbreak in Australia would have devastating economic, animal welfare, and social impacts. As a result, Australia’s response plans call for the rapid detection, diagnosis and eradication of FMD.

The Victorian Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) regularly undertakes field and laboratory investigation of suspect cases of FMD and other emergency animal diseases. These investigations are underpinned by veterinary technical expertise within DEDJTR and close working relationships maintained by DEDJTR with private veterinarians, the livestock industries and other government departments.
To enhance early detection and response to FMD, over 30 veterinarians and animal health officers from DEDJTR, and a number of industry veterinarians and private practitioners in Victoria, have undertaken real-time FMD training in Nepal since 2011/12. The training is provided under the auspices of the European Commission for the Control of FMD and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation.                              
The intensive 5-day training course provides a unique opportunity for participants to gain first-hand,  practical experience in FMD lesion identification and ageing, lesion sampling and diagnostics, outbreak investigation and real-time consideration of appropriate disease control measures. In addition, the practical skills that participants gain from this unique training are vital to planning and conducting a successful response to any potential future outbreak in Australia, both at operational and management levels.
Importantly, the courses also include veterinarians from Nepal who provide local knowledge and benefit also from participating in the training. The main challenge for Nepal is early detection and control of FMD to prevent spread. Control of FMD in Nepal is largely by vaccination, but its effectiveness is limited as a result of cost, low awareness amongst farmers, limited funds and cold-chain issues.
Participants are required to undertake a number of activities upon their return to Australia to share what they have learnt in Nepal, and to contribute to general veterinary, farmer and community awareness and understanding of FMD risks.

The Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, DEDJTR, and the Victorian livestock industries are
acknowledged for providing financial support for this important training.

District Veterinary Officer Case Study:
Chronic copper toxicity in feed-lotted lambs
Ian Holmes (District Veterinary Officer – Benalla) ASBO; DEDJTR

In May 2015 a farmer in northeast Victoria reported losing 2 to 3 (out of 400)    weaned, paddock raised composite lambs on a daily basis. These lambs had been vaccinated with a Johne’s vaccine, Campylobacter (twice) and 6 in 1 (twice). They had also been drenched three times prior to introduction to the feedlot in March.

At the end of April, the lambs were put on a pivot irrigated greenfeed millet paddock and trail fed a ration of 600-700gm/head/day pellets plus two 1,000 kg bales of straw per week. Affected weaners would fade, collapse and die rapidly. Although all 400 ewe lambs were drenched with cydectin generic, on 15th May, deaths continued at a rate of 2-3 per day.

Other lambs that had remained in the feedlot and not been put out in the paddock were not affected but had high faecal egg counts (FEC) of 2,205 eggs per gram. A necropsy on a freshly dead lamb showed it to be very fat and with no evidence of grain poisoning. The liver was bronze and the kidneys were dark and enlarged. The lining of the abomasum was haemorrhagic but no Haemonchus were noted. There was considerable pericardial fluid (approximately 50ml) and the urine was dark. A second slow lamb was caught and physically inspected. It’s mucous membranes were pale, yellowish and obviously anaemic. Blood tests confirmed the anaemia. Histopathological changes in the liver and kidney were characteristic of chronic copper poisoning leading to an acute haemolytic crisis.

Further questioning of the producer revealed that he had been adding copper sulphate crystals to the water troughs in the feedlot to prevent algal blooms. The producer lost a total of 25 (out of 400) 8 month old ewe weaners and was advised to clean out the water troughs and find an alternate method of algal growth control.

What’s Coming… 


Salmonella in adult dairy cattle

This section highlights one or more conditions that, based on historical data collected by the Department, are predicted to increase over the next 3-6 months. This month we’re focusing on Salmonella in Victorian adult dairy cattle.                    
Prediction of the number of cases of Salmonella in Victorian adult dairy cattle in 2016 and 2017, based on historical data from 2009-2015.

The number of Victorian properties reported with Salmonella in adult dairy cows has remained reasonably constant since 2013 with a seasonal peak between late Autumn and early Spring. Based on the historical data, this seasonal pattern is predicted to continue through 2016 and 2017.

Location of cases of Salmonella in adult dairy cattle across Victoria in 2014, 2015 and 2016 (2014 = red; 2015 = orange; 2016 = blue).

Across the Nation and Around the World…

Devils show signs of resistance to facial tumour disease

RESEARCHERS have detected signs of a fightback by Tasmanian devils against the facial tumour disease, which threatens to drive the species to extinction in the wild.

National Arbovirus Monitoring Program's latest report is available
 Animal health Surveillance quarterly Volume 20:issue 2 is availble
 Perfect weather conditions for ‘Pink Eye’ in young cattle
Highly pathogenic avian influenza watch
USDA Confirms Highly Pathogenic H7N8 Avian Influenza in a Commercial Turkey Flock in Dubois County, Indiana

OIE member countries official HPAI outbreak map (above) November 2015 – February 2016.
FMD Watch
Foot and mouth disease outbreaks continue to occur in parts of Africa and Asia (November  2015 to February 2016).
OIE member countries’ official FMD outbreak map (above) and distribution map (below), July  2016. Source: World Animal Health Information Database (WAHID)

For more information of the latest disease outbreaks across the globe, please visit:

Training Opportunities

   Animal Disease Investigations Training
The Victorian Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) is offering a two day course in animal disease investigation for private veterinary practitioners. The course aims to enable participants to confidently and competently investigate animal disease events through a combination of disease investigation theory and practice. The theory sessions are highly interactive involving animal disease case studies, set tasks and short presentations; the practical sessions focus on the conduct of a safe, systematic, comprehensive ruminant necropsy. Detailed course notes and a ruminant necropsy DVD will be supplied.
Note that applications close on Friday 11th March 2016.
For further information, contact:
Mrs Liane Holm
Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources
Tel: (03) 5430 4558
Distance education:
The University of Edinburgh
MSc Clinical Animal Behaviour:
The MSc in Clinical Animal Behaviour is a new programme in 2016 using the University of Edinburgh’s award winning online learning environments.
For more info visit:
Agriculture Victoria

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