Australian farmers warned of anthrax risk in New South Wales

Health authorities in Australia are warning farmers about ideal conditions for an outbreak of anthrax in northern New South Wales and encouraging them to keep an eye out for the deadly disease.

Shaun Slattery, the district veterinarian for the Livestock Health and Pest Authority, said 37 cattle recently died of anthrax on two properties near Moree. This is not the first anthrax outbreak to occur in the region, ABC Australia reports.

"The Moree watercourse area had a major outbreak in 1973," Slattery said, according to ABC Australia. "It involved at least 15 properties and about 400 cattle died. Anthrax does pop up every so often in these historical areas."

Slattery said recent flooding in the area could have exposed anthrax spores in the soil from prior outbreaks. Cattle contract the disease when eating plants close to the ground. Anthrax is not contagious and it is not likely the disease spread from one affected property to the other.

The authority sent letters to farmers in the district to warn them about the disease.

"We've sent a letter to the people in the Moree watercourse area asking them to notify us of any deaths and to really be aware," Slattery said, according to ABC Australia.

The outbreak is the state's first bovine anthrax outbreak since 2009.

Slattery said new technology helped authorities diagnose and manage the anthrax outbreak quickly and effectively, ABC Australia reports.

"We were able to diagnose it immediately using (immuno-chromatographic test) kits," Slattery said, according to ABC Australia. "You take a swab from the animal, mix it with a bit of fluid, put it in the well of the plastic kit, give in 15 minutes, and if it's positive it will show a positive line. And we were able to use technology to trace the animals' movements straight away. We were able to look at the National Livestock Identification Scheme database within minutes using an iPad. We confirmed the owner's report that no cattle had moved off the property. Technology is great these days."