Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources
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In late February, Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport & Resources (DEDJTR) animal health staff were called to action after receiving notification of a case of anthrax in the Goulburn Valley of northern Victoria. The affected heifer was reported to have died suddenly and tested positive to anthrax via the immunochromatographic anthrax antigen test (ICT test). ). The pen-side test was confirmed by subsequent laboratory testing.. A response was initiated that included quarantine, carcass disposal, premise decontamination and vaccination programs to control the disease. No further cases were diagnosed. The support from local private practitioners and the farming community was outstanding and assisted in a rapid response. This is a very timely reminder that long-lasting viable anthrax spores, capable of causing disease at any time, exist in Victorian soils. Investigating a sudden unexplained death? Think anthrax first, and protect yourself from exposure.

In this edition...
February-March investigations
Immunochromographic test (ICT) - get trained!
Coming soon to a desktop near you
Acute bovine liver disease (ABLD) - high risk period
Pigeon paramyxovirus (PPMV-1) cases continue
Ross River Virus infections increased in northern states
Across the Nation
Around the World 
Significant Disease Investigation (SDI) program
What’s happening out there?
Continuing education opportunities


VetSource @ DEDJTR

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

February-March investigations
Over 260 livestock disease investigations reported to DEDJTR for the months of February and March, with 80 per cent being performed by private practitioners. A single cattle death due to anthrax was diagnosed in northern Victoria. Fortunately no further cases were diagnosed, despite a number of exclusion tests being performed on other suspect animals. Several exotic disease exclusion tests were performed for avian influenza, Newcastle disease, Hendra virus and brucellosis (Brucella abortus) – all of which returned negative results. We encourage you to consider emergency animal diseases during your routine investigations – our borders are not fool-proof and early detection of any incursion is imperative.

Figure 1: Record of Disease Event investigations by species, February-March 2015.  

Immunochromographic test (ICT) 
The recent case of anthrax in the Goulburn Valley was diagnosed by a private practitioner using an immunochromatographic anthrax antigen test (ICT test). The ICT, produced locally at the AgriBio laboratory, is a screening test for anthrax, suitable for use in the field as part of an investigation of suspected anthrax in cattle and sheep. Before you can use the ICT in your investigations, you are required to undergo training in its use by DEDJTR animal health staff. Where the ICT returns a positive result  samples must be submitted to AgriBio for confirmatory testing (culture). Samples should also be sent to Agribio if there is a high suspicion that anthrax is the cause of the death,even if the ICT returns a negative result.  
Did you know?
Historically, anthrax has occurred across the state of Victoria (see Figure 2). Viable spores can lie dormant in soils for decades, and cases have been known to occur in areas many years apart. An incident in Queensland in 1994 occurred in an area that hadn’t seen a case for 70 years! Cases generally occur after activity that disturbs spores, such as earthworks, heavy rain, deep grazing (particularly over summer when stock graze close to ground) and times of drought.
If you are investigating a case of sudden unexplained death in cattle, sheep or other susceptible livestock, test the carcass with an ICT prior to performing further investigation such as a necropsy. If you haven’t been trained in ICT use and would like to be, or require more ICT kits for your clinic, contact your local DEDJTR animal health staff.

Figure 2: Anthrax occurrence in Victoria, 1914-2009.

Coming soon to a desktop near you
DEDJTR is currently working with developers to design a website for online data entry of Significant Disease Investigations (SDIs) and for reporting of notifiable diseases. The system will allow for uploading of case data, laboratory results, invoices and the like, and allow private practitioners to keep track of the status of their subsidised investigations.
The new system will save time and streamline reporting processes – watch this space!

Acute bovine liver disease (ABLD) - high risk period 
We’ve approached that time of year again where we tend to receive an increased number of reports of acute bovine liver disease (ABLD). Cases coincide with the warm, moist weather of Autumn (and sometimes Spring) (Figure 3 displays seasonal occurrence of cases reported to DEDJTR since 2010), and in previous years, the south west of the state from Warrnambool to Colac has been hit hardest.
ABLD is a disease of cattle associated with the grazing of older, unimproved pastures with considerable amounts of long standing feed and dead plant matter. The exact cause of ABLD is unknown, however due to the timing of cases the involvement of a fungal pathogen has been suggested . Paddocks remain 'toxic' for variable periods of time, from hours to months. Whether the paddock will be toxic in future years is also unknown. The annual grass Rough dog's tail (Cynosurus echinatus) is commonly associated, however there is no current evidence to suggest that the plant itself is toxic. It may be an indicator of another factor, or may host a causative pathogen.
Clinical signs
  • Variable, associated with photosensitisation
  • Sudden in onset (24-48hrs after moving cattle onto a 'toxic' paddock)
  • Distress, agitation and shade-seeking behaviour
  • Death, typically in cattle over 6 months
  • Sporadic or affecting large numbers of a herd
If producers in your area are affected by ABLD, they should be advised to remove cattle from the affected paddock immediately, provide shade and water, and seek veterinary attention.

Figure 3: Monthly occurrence of ABLD – 2010 to March 2015.

Figure 4: Geographical occurrence of ABLD – 2010 to March 2015.

Pigeon paramyxovirus (PPMV-1) cases continue 
A further six confirmed and five suspect (to be confirmed) reports of pigeon paramyxovirus (PPMV-1) infected domestic pigeon flocks were reported during February and March (see Figure 5 for location). Mortality rates were generally low, however one owner lost over 40 per cent of their flock.

Retraction from February Vet Watch: in last month’s edition, it was stated that PPMV-1 is considered to be endemic in wild pigeon populations in Victoria and New South Wales. This is incorrect, as PPMV-1 has not been diagnosed in wild/feral pigeons for a number of years, nor have any reports been received from the general public indicating massive population crashes like what occurred in 2011. It is however considered to be endemic in domesticated pigeon populations, therefore vaccination of these birds is recommended.

Figure 5: Location of suspect and confirmed PPMV-1 cases, February-March 2015.

Ross River Virus infections increased in northern states
Ross River Virus (RRV) is a zoonotic alphavirus endemic to Australia, transmitted by a wide range of mosquitoes including Aedes and Culex species. This year, Queensland and New South Wales have experienced increased numbers of RRV infections, with over 3200 human cases reported since 1 January 2015 in Queensland (as of 27 March 2015), and 898 reported in New South Wales (as of 6 April 2015). These figures are approximately 7.8 and 3.7 times higher than the five year means respectively. Increased human case numbers in Victoria have not been as dramatic, with 142 cases reported this year (to 5 April 2015) which is 1.8 times the mean for the same period in 2012-2014.
RRV is maintained in a primary mosquito–mammal cycle, involving macropods and possibly other marsupials and wild rodents. Horses are often implicated when RRV is circulating, and due to their ability to develop a high-titre viraemia and infect various mosquito species, may act as amplifying hosts of the disease. RRV is not fatal, however in humans it can cause acute polyarthritis that may persist long after the acute phase of the infection is over. Clinical signs in horses can include: pyrexia, inappetence, lameness and reluctance to move, stiffness, swollen joints, ataxia, mild colic and poor performance. Often infection is subclinical.

Whilst conditions in Victoria have not been particularly favourable for increased arbovirus transmission  (most frequently following episodes of high rainfall and extensive flooding), it is important to be aware of this increased circulation of virus. If a horse is displaying signs consistent with any of those listed above, consider RRV (and other arboviral infections such as Murray Valley Encephalitis and Kunjin viruses). Diagnosis is by demonstration of a detectable IgM antibody response in a single serum sample, or in the acute sample where paired blood samples have been collected.

Across the Nation…
Improved Access to Agvet Chemicals initiative
The Australian Government has committed $8 million to fund the ‘Improved Access to Agvet Chemicals initiative’. The initiative  will help farmers gain improved access to safe and effective agricultural and veterinary (agv​et) chemicals, by increasing  both the number of new agvet chemical products and the legal uses of existing agvet chemicals available in the Australian market. This will ultimately assist farmers in producing food for Australia and the world. The Department of Agriculture will work closely with the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority, grower groups, Rural Research and Development Corporations (RDCs) and the chemical industry, and ensure all interested stakeholders have the opportunity to provide input. The food animal industries have been asked to provide a list of priority chemicals to the Australian Department of Agriculture for consideration.
Further information on the government’s Initiative is available at

Around the World…
Avian influenza H5N2 – United States outbreak
Avian influenza H5N2 continues to spread across the United States of America, having now reached eleven states from Oregon to Arkansas. Minnesota, a large turkey producing state, has alone lost or culled over two million turkeys and chickens due to the virus since early March. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has concerns that the virus may spread to East Coast states such as Georgia, North and South Carolina, Virginia, Delaware and Maryland, where much of the US broiler chicken industry is based.
The USDA has already spent $20-30 million (USD) in compensation and other costs, and many countries have imposed bans on the import of poultry and eggs from affected areas. To read more, please visit:!ut/p/a0/04_Sj9CPykssy0xPLMnMz0vMAfGjzOK9_D2MDJ0MjDzdXUyMDTzdPA2cAtz8jT1dTPULsh0VAbiDHEw!/.
Other global outbreaks during March-April 2015 of highly pathogenic avian influenza include (but are not limited to):
H5N6 – Hong Kong, wild bird (peregrine falcon)
H5N1 – Bhutan, free-range backyard poultry
H5N2 – Canada, meat turkeys
H7N3 – Mexico, backyard poultry
The global situation can be seen in Figure 6 (visit for more information).

Figure 6: Highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreaks, February – April 20 2015. Source: World Animal Health Information Database (WAHID).

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


Figures 7 and 8: OIE member countries’ official FMD outbreak map (above) and distribution map (below), February – April 20 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 

Continuing education opportunities
One Health Course: Diseases at the Human-Animal Interface
13 – 17 July 2015; Brisbane, Queensland
A highly practical 5-day course designed to give participants an insight into the complex bio-social/bio-economic systems that have emerged in association with human populations that lead to the emergence or occurrence of zoonotic diseases. For more information please visit:
New Zealand Society for Parasitology and Australian Society for Parasitology - Parasitology Conference
29 June – 2 July 2015; Auckland, New Zealand
Celebrating the best Australian and New Zealand parasitology research with an outstanding mix of quality international, New Zealand and Australian scientists. For more information please visit:
Animal Health Surveillance Information Systems: Pre-ANZCVS Science Week Workshop
6 – 8 July 2015; Gold Coast, Queensland
Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists Epidemiology Chapter presents this pre-Science Week workshop, examining  the issues of system design from a multidisciplinary perspective, considering a range of design and implementation options. For more information please visit:
64th International Conference of the Wildlife Disease Association International Conference
26 – 30 July 2015; Sunshine Coast, Queensland
The conference theme is “Wildlife Disease Driving Evolution”, and includes world renowned plenary speakers leading sessions on One Health, Emerging Wildlife Diseases in Australasia, Wildlife Disease and Evolution and Marine Ecosystems Health; and presentations on cutting edge wildlife health and disease topics. For more information please visit:

What do you call a cat who commits a crime?
The purrpetrator 

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

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