Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources
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Last month (January) a suspect foot and mouth disease (FMD) case was reported to animal health staff at the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR). Staff immediately visited the property to investigate, and samples were sent directly to the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) for FMD testing. AAHL was able to provide interim negative results in the wee hours of the following morning, allowing the affected producer to be back to his normal milking routine, mind safe at rest. We encourage you all to collect samples for emergency animal disease exclusion testing where appropriate – we have a fantastic diagnostic capacity available here in Victoria that provides for rapid exclusion of exotic disease, allowing fast return to normal business. The little extra effort (and sometimes small inconvenience) to exclude an emergency animal disease in suspicious situations is far better than the potential consequences of the alternative. And as the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

In this edition...
January investigations
Situation update: Infectious laryngotracheitis (ILT)
Shout out to our equine vets
Recent reports of pigeon paramyxovirus (PPMV-1)
Theileria update 
News on pain relief for sheep, cattle and pigs
Across the Nation
Around the World 
Significant Disease Investigation (SDI) program
What’s happening out there?

VetSource @ DEDJTR

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

January investigations
We have had just over 100 Record of Disease Event investigations reported for the month of January, 80 per cent performed by private veterinarians. Location of investigations and species affected is displayed in Figure 1. Of interest, there was a single report of phalaris toxicity on a sheep property near Hamilton, which caused the death of almost 10 per cent of the mob. These animals showed signs of head pressing, opisthotonus (rigid arched back) and salivation prior to death. Deaths occurred just over a week after a period of high summer rainfall broke the dry December/early January period in the area. Also in the west, north of Warrnambool, copper toxicosis was found to be responsible for an on-going toxic hepatopathy issue in young sheep. Interestingly, although Southdown sheep made up only half of the mob, they appeared to be much more susceptible to toxicoses (with over 20 per cent of Southdowns affected compared to no deaths amongst other breeds). Internal helminth parasites, mainly haemonchus, were also an issue in sheep and goats across the state, reiterating the importance of drenching all animals at the accurate dose (so have your clients pull out those scales!), performing faecal egg counts post-drench (to determine efficacy and any resistance issues) and environmental management including paddock rotation.

Figure 1: Record of Disease Event investigations by species, January 2015.  

Situation update: Infectious laryngotracheitis (ILT)
Over the last decade infectious laryngotracheitis (ILT) has significantly impacted the Victorian chicken meat and egg industry, causing substantial financial losses and animal welfare issues as a result of increased mortality and deterioration in feed conversion rates and egg production. A recent study by the Victorian Farmer federation (VFF) estimates that the annual cost of the disease to the Victorian meat industry is about $1.8 million.

Since December 2013 there has been a significant increase in the number of outbreaks, with an increase in late 2014 in particular linked to the recent spread of the disease from poultry farms on the Mornington Peninsula to farms located on the western side of Port Philip Bay. The increase in number of ILT outbreaks is linked to the  emergence of new mutant ILT virus of class 9, that was formed as result  of two different vaccine viruses (A20 and Serva) used to control the disease recombining (crossing) to form new virulent forms of the ILT virus.
Currently DEDJTR staff are involved in a coordinating role, collating and mapping information regarding ILT outbreaks and notifying all stakeholders in real time about new cases. New information regarding research results and vaccines trials is regularly disseminated to members of the Victorian poultry industry via the Poultry Health & Welfare Liaison Group (PHWLG) meetings.
In 2014, departmental staff conducted an ILT epidemiological study of farms on the Mornington Peninsula, and information and biological samples were collected from affected farms in an effort to better understand the dynamics of the disease and provide technical advice for its prevention and control. Results of this study will be made available once analysis of the collected data is complete.
Recently, the VFF has requested the assistance of DEDJTR to coordinate the stakeholders’ responses in an effort to control ILT. With a combined effort, it is hoped that the incidence of ILT will decrease considerably - watch this space for more updates.


Shout out to our equine vets
DEDJTR receives many reports of disease in cattle and sheep (1302 per year and 386 per year respectively (average of 2012-2014)) from private veterinarians, however reports of disease in horses average only 59 per year (2012-2014 data). We would love more disease data to allow us to monitor equine health, detect disease trends and prepare for possible disease emergence.
Do you work with horses? Have you diagnosed anything interesting, unusual, or of public health concern?
Please let us know, either by a telephone call or email to your local departmental animal health staff. Significant disease investigations in horses (those that meet specific criteria) may also be eligible for subsidisation of investigation and laboratory costs (visit for more information).

Equine disease: What has been reported?
From 2012-2014, strangles was the most common diagnosis reported to DEDJTR in horses, followed by streptococcus, equine herpesvirus 1 (abortogenic and neurological strains) and salmonellosis (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Top reported diagnoses in horses (by final diagnosis), 2012 – 2013. [Unknown] investigations did not reach a final diagnosis, however EADs were excluded where appropriate.

Remembering back to summer/autumn 2011, Victoria experienced an arboviral disease outbreak in horses across the state, with animals on over 250 properties affected by Ross River virus, Murray Valley Encephalitis virus and/or Kunjin virus. We have been fortunate in our climatic conditions over the past three years, in that they have not been favourable for increased arbovirus transmission (which is most frequent following episodes of high rainfall and extensive flooding). Dry conditions are expected to continue, however we do advise you to consider arboviral disease as a differential in horses displaying neurological or musculoskeletal symptoms, particularly if they reside near a body of water. If the horse has been recently transported to Victoria from a northern state, Hendra virus infection should also as be excluded (see for more information on Henrdra virus investigation).

Recent reports of pigeon paramyxovirus (PPMV-1)
Over the last few weeks here in Victoria there has been a spike in the number of cases of pigeon Paramyxovirus (PPMV-1) infection diagnosed in domestic pigeons. Cases have generally involved low levels of mortality, particularly in non-vaccinated juvenile birds. The virus was first detected in Australia in 2011, when an outbreak occurred in Victoria, and currently PPMV-1 is considered to be endemic in wild pigeon populations in Victoria and New South Wales.
The pigeon virus is closely related to the virus that causes Newcastle disease, an emergency disease of poultry that can result in large outbreaks. Although PPMV-1 is not known to cause disease in poultry in Australia, the close relationship with the Newcastle disease virus means that careful monitoring is important to detect molecular changes (i.e. mutation) that might indicate an increase in virulence.
DEDJTR has been monitoring these recent detections and has submitted samples to the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) for further analysis. To date, the virus appears stable and no molecular changes have been detected.
Those who own domestic pigeons can prevent the disease by ensuring all their birds are properly vaccinated using the locally available, inactivated Newcastle disease vaccine and practicing good biosecurity. If you have any clients who are pigeon fanciers, please remind them of these measures to help protect their birds against PPMV-1. Regulatory action is not undertaken when PPMV-1 is detected, however it remains a notifiable disease. Please ensure you report any suspect or confirmed cases to your local departmental animal health staff, or by downloading and submitting the notifiable diseases form available at


Theileria update
The odd case of theileriosis continues to be reported to DEDJTR, with one report from north east Victoria (Indigo shire)  and another from the East Gippsland shire during January. Both were dairy herds with only a single affected animal. The number of reported cases has continued to decrease yearly since peaking at 67 infected herds in 2012. Figure 3 displays the number of individual reports from 2011 to 2014, with over 20 per cent more affected herds in the Gippsland region overall than the north east. It is expected that we will see a few cases of theileriosis over the coming autumn period, although the predicted drier weather may assist in keeping them to a minimum (see Figure 3 for the seasonal occurrence from 2011-2014). We would like to continue to monitor any suspect or confirmed cases this year, so please report any details (even a farmers phone call)  to your local departmental animal health staff member. 

Figures 3 and 4: Reported cases of theileriosis by year and region (left), and by year and month (right), 2011 – 2014.

News on pain relief for sheep, cattle and pigs
Did you know, two products are now registered for label-limited use to provide analgesia during routine husbandry practices, and work is ongoing to expand their label claims.
TriSolfen: a topical local anaesthetic and antiseptic gel spray for application to mulesing wounds in lambs. It carries a 'DO NOT USE other than for Merino lambs being mulesed' label restriction, but has been used off-label for a number of other husbandry procedures and general wound dressing including dehorning, knife castration, shearing cuts and fire burns to the skin.
Buccalgesic (vet-only): an oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatory that has just been registered for castration of calves. It is administered by the buccal mucus membrane route five to ten minutes prior to surgery. Manufacturer Ilium intend to widen the label claims, firstly in cattle, then in sheep.
Meloxicam (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) is also being trialled in oral formulation for sheep (the injectable form is registered for use in cattle and pigs).

Across the Nation…
World first for detector dogs
An infestation of electric ants is currently centred around Cairns, Queensland, however regular surveillance by the Biosecurity Queensland is required to ensure the pest hasn’t spread further. The National Electric Ant Eradication Program is now using a team of highly trained electric ant odour detection dogs to check garden beds, green waste and mulch (which are high risk transportation materials) for signs of the ant. The dogs are highly efficient, achieving more in their search efforts than a team of ten people would in the same time frame.
Internationally, dogs are being trained to detect other environmental pests and diseases, and in conservation work, for example, detecting faeces/scat of endangered wildlife. This team of electric ant odour detection dogs is a world first, and have so far proved highly successful in detecting electric ant colonies throughout the region, allowing their destruction and, hopefully, eventual eradication.
For more information on electric ants and the National Electric Ant Eradication Program, please visit

Around the World…
Practice is the key! Emergency animal disease simulation exercises: Foot and mouth disease in New Zealand, avian influenza in Brazil and classical swine fever in Moldova
A table-top simulation exercise on foot and mouth disease (FMD) will take place from 17 to 19 March 2015 in Auckland, New Zealand. The three day simulation exercise will be a large scenario based exercise with similarities to a FMD outbreak. The exercise will involve around 140 people from member organisations of the National Biosecurity Capability Network (NBCN), including public sector, local Government and Central Government staff. Activities that will be focussed on during the simulation will include permitting, risk assessment, tracing, visit coordination and infected place coordination. For more information on this exercise, please visit:
Also in March, a table-top and field simulation exercise on avian influenza will take place Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. The exercise, targeted at Brazils’ Official Veterinary Services veterinarians, aims to maintain emergency preparedness and allow for staff to practice knowledge acquired during training sessions and actions outlined in national disease contingency plans. This simulation will focus on reviewing epidemiological investigation, laboratory diagnosis, biosecurity measures, containment barriers, and cleaning and disinfection processes of affected holdings relating to avian influenza. For more information on this exercise, please visit:
Earlier this month in Chisinau, Moldova (bordering Ukraine and Romania), the National Food Safety Agency of Moldova hosted a national table-top simulation exercise (titled ‘SinEx’) on classical swine fever (CSF). The exercised consisted of two sections, the first updating central and local representatives on knowledge of CSF and activities of disease control, and the second being a simulation exercise based on a scenario. The aim of SinEx was to test the reaction capacity in a CSF outbreak, and also test CSF contingency plans and operation manuals.

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy diagnosed in Canada
Samples taken from a cow in early February 2015 as part of Canada’s national surveillance program for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) have been confirmed as positive for classical BSE. A private veterinarian submitted the samples from a non-ambulatory cow on a farm in Edmonton, Alberta on the 4th of February which were confirmed positive by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s OIE BSE reference laboratory in Lethbridge, Alberta on the 11th of February. This carcass did not enter the human food or animal feed chains. Investigations have identified the cows’ birthdate and herd of origin, and are ongoing with movement controls and quarantines in place until investigations are complete. This highlights the importance of an adequate livestock identification and traceability system in assisting to maintain animal and human health and disease control (which we in Australia are lucky to have via the National Livestock Identification System (
The last case of classical BSE detected in Canada was in February 2011, and this recent detection demonstrates the ongoing effectiveness of their targeted BSE surveillance program. As a further control measure, Canada has an enhanced feed ban controlling for exclusion of specified risk materials from the entire animal feed chain and fertilizers. For more information on this incident, please visit:
As you’re probably aware, we also have a national Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy Freedom Assurance Program (TSEFAP), and you can participate and be subsidised to submit samples from suspicious cattle and sheep. Although Australia is free from TSEs, to continue to be classified as "free" and to maintain access to international markets, we need to prove this freedom. For more information on how you can participate, please visit:

FMD Watch

Foot and mouth disease outbreaks continue to occur in parts of Africa and Asia. 


Figures 5 and 6: OIE member countries’ official FMD outbreak map (above) and distribution map (below), January – February 23 2015. Source: World Animal Health Information Database (WAHID).

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

Significant Disease Investigation (SDI) program
The Victorian Significant Disease Investigation (SDI) Program aims to boost Victoria's capacity for the early detection of such diseases in livestock and wildlife by increasing the participation of veterinary practitioners and subsidising the cost of investigating significant diseases. 
Subsidies are available from the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) for the initial field investigation, including clinical and post-mortem evaluation, laboratory testing and a follow-up investigation of significant disease events in livestock and free-living wildlife. A subsidy is also available for cattle, sheep, goat and pig owners to reduce their costs when they engage a veterinary practitioner to undertake a significant disease investigation.

For more information about the DEDJTR subsidies for significant disease investigations and reporting, please contact DEDJTR Animal Health staff at your nearest DEDJTR office, telephone the DEDJTR Customer Service Centre on 136 186 or visit the DEPI website.

What’s happening out there? 
For the latest edition of the Department of Agriculture’s EAD alerts, visit: Emergency and Exotic Animal Diseases - Bulletins and Alerts.
To access the Animal Health Surveillance Quarterly Report:

For international disease updates, visit:
GLEWS (Global Livestock Early Warning System):
OIE/WAHID database:
FAOSTAT agriculture - production, consumption and trade of agricultural commodities:
FAOSTAT - detailed world agricultural trade flows:

Background info on countries in the Asian region:
FAO Regional Data exchange: 
FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific: 
OIE Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific: 
Southeast Asian FMD campaign 

A racehorse owner takes his horse to the vet, lame in all four legs.
“Will I be able to race this horse?” he asks.

The vet replies: “Of course you will, and you’ll probably win!”

Copyright © The State of Victoria Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources 2015, All rights reserved.

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