Northern WA Livestock Disease Outlook - for producers

Why DAFWA carries out surveillance for livestock disease

Australia’s access to markets for livestock and livestock products depends on evidence from our surveillance systems that we are free of reportable and trade-sensitive livestock diseases. To gather this proof of freedom, the Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia (DAFWA) investigates cases where livestock show signs similar to reportable or trade-sensitive diseases. The Northern WA livestock disease outlook is collated from information collected by DAFWA as part of proving Australia’s freedom from those diseases.

Recent significant cases submitted to the Animal Health Laboratories

Case data from February–November 2014

Hendra virus exclusion in a horse

  • A private veterinarian investigated a horse that died within 12 hours of showing signs suggestive of Hendra virus in the Northern Rangelands in February.
  • Signs included uncoordinated and wobbly walking, bloody nasal discharge, twitching of the muscles and fever. The horse died within four hours of these signs appearing.
  • Flying foxes and fruit trees were present in the horse paddock and the feed bins and water point were uncovered.
  • Samples were taken and sent to the Animal Health Laboratories for testing. Laboratory testing of samples excluded Hendra virus but did not provide a diagnosis. Differential diagnoses included snake bite or ironwood poisoning.
  • Hendra virus is a reportable and serious zoonotic disease. If you suspect a horse may have Hendra virus, contact your local district veterinary officer immediately or call 1800 675 888 for advice.
  • Read more about how to prevent Hendra virus in horses.

Botulism in cattle

  • Two cases of sudden death in cattle were investigated in the Pilbara and Kimberley between April and the end of June.
  • The cattle were not vaccinated against botulism. Signs included a wobbly gait, stumbling and knuckling while walking, drooling, sudden death or cattle found dead in the paddock during mustering.
  • Botulism is usually diagnosed via a combination of the clinical signs, excluding other causes and detection of the bacteria, spores or toxin from post-mortem samples or potential feed sources by laboratory testing. In most cases the levels of botulism toxin in the body are too low to detect by laboratory testing.
  • Other diseases that may look like botulism include:
    1. three-day sickness (ephemeral fever – seen when midge vectors are active)
    2. plant toxicities
    3. tick fever – reportable animal disease outside the endemic cattle tick area of WA.
  • Botulism is best prevented by vaccination. Further advice can be obtained from your local veterinarian.
  • Read more on botulism in cattle and cattle vaccines.

Australian bat lyssavirus (ABLV) in little red flying foxes

  • During August and September a wildlife carer in the Kimberley reported seven little red flying foxes (Pteropus scapulatus) with neurological signs to a DAFWA veterinarian.
  • Signs included inability to fly, aggressive biting of towels, inability to drink or eat, head tremors, unusual crying out.
  • Laboratory testing of the flying foxes detected Australian bat lyssavirus (ABLV).
  • All bats are potential carriers of ABLV. ABLV is a fatal zoonotic disease unless promptly treated after potential exposure to an infected flying fox (fruit bat). If you are bitten or scratched by a flying fox (bat), seek immediate medical attention. Read more from the Department of Health.
  • If you find a sick flying fox (bat), do not handle it. Contact a Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) registered wildlife carer or a DPaW Wildlife Officer for advice.
  • If you suspect ABLV in a flying fox (bat) or if there has been confirmed contact between an ABLV-infected bat and domestic animals, contact your local DAFWA veterinarian (visit Livestock Biosecurity contacts) or call 1800 675 888.
  • Read more on Australian bat lyssavirus.