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CASE OF ANTHRAX CONFIRMED IN SOUTH WALES

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The Welsh Assembly Government has confirmed that test results on two cows which died on a beef farm in Rhonnda Cyno...
The Welsh Assembly Government has confirmed that test results on two cows which died on a beef farm in Rhonnda Cynon Taff, died of anthrax. Several tests have been carried out on the farm since early April following the sudden deaths of five cows but these tests are the first to produce positive confirmation of the bacteria in blood samples.

The carcasses of the cows confirmed with anthrax have already been burnt on site with ashes disposed of in secure conditions in accordance with the Anthrax Order 1991. Carcasses from other cattle that have died on the farm since April have also been incinerated and staff working at the incineration sites have been advised of health and safety procedures.

All unexplained sudden deaths of cattle are investigated for anthrax, and several hundreds of samples are examined each year in GB. In this case the carcass was tested as a matter of routine, although anthrax was confirmed on the same farm approximately 35 years ago. Under certain environmental conditions, anthrax spores may persist for many years in the environment. Full epidemiological investigations are being carried out to see if the current outbreak of anthrax is related to the previous one.

No cattle on this farm have been sent for the food chain for almost 12 months. Anthrax is a rapid disease and an animal that contracted anthrax would not be sent for slaughter because it would be obviously ill. Ante-mortem checks carried out by the Meat Hygiene Service provide an additional safeguard to the health status of meat going into the food chain. The Food Standards Agency has been informed of the outbreak.

Chief veterinary officer for Wales Christianne Glossop said: 'The Welsh Assembly Government and State Veterinary Service have worked quickly to ensure that there is no threat from anthrax to the public, farmers or any other livestock in Rhondda Cynon Taff. Officials are liaising with the Environment Agency and medical authorities to ensure that all necessary precautions are being taken. Anthrax is very rare - it last occurred in Wales in 2002. We are working to trace the source of the current outbreak.'

Notes

Anthrax is a highly infectious and contagious disease. Under certain environmental conditions it forms spores that may persist for many years in the environment.

Some animals may only have a mild reaction to infection; it is typically seen as acute disease, especially in cattle. It often results in sudden death without any apparent symptoms.

All unexplained sudden deaths in livestock, esp. cattle and pigs, are required to be notified to the local divisional veterinary manager of the state veterinary service. This is a requirement of the Anthrax Order 1991.

Precautions taken during the investigations and a cleansing and disinfection operation will reduce any risk to animals and humans. In any suspicious cases, such as this one, the medical authorities are informed to provide appropriate advice.

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