Emergency Animal Disease Alerts, Vol. 11 Issue 1

May 2017

Lumpy skin disease

Since it was reported in western Turkey in May 2015, lumpy skin disease (LSD) has subsequently spread to Russia and the Balkan countries of Greece, Bulgaria, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo, and Albania. A recent study reports the median spread rate during this outbreak to be 7.3 km/week. Insect vector and cattle trade movements were both identified as drivers for LSD spread.

An epidemiological analysis and review of risk factors for LSD spread undertaken by the European Food Safety Authority recommends vaccination and vector surveys for LSD control in Europe.

An outbreak of LSD in Australia could result in significant economic losses due to trade and movement restrictions, outbreak response activities, decreased production and damage to hides. It is important that Australian veterinarians maintain current knowledge and remain alert to exotic disease risks, to ensure rapid recognition and response to a potential outbreak. Early detection and laboratory confirmation is key to effective LSD response.

Would LSD be on your differential list for generalised skin disease in cattle? If not, see Animal Health Australia

Mycobacterium ulcerans

Buruli (or Bairnsdale) ulcer is a serious necrotising cutaneous infection caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans. Human cases have been reported in over 30 countries across Africa, South America, Asia, and the Western Pacific region. In Australia, laboratory-confirmed cases have been reported in humans, wildlife and domestic species including horses, dogs and cats.

Infection with M. ulcerans is a notifiable human disease, and the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services has reported a steady increase in human cases of Buruli ulcer since August 2016. Although considered an environmental bacterium, possums are recognised as a potential reservoir host. Veterinarians and wildlife workers are advised to use appropriate precautions and PPE when handling wildlife with skin ulcers.

Peste des petits ruminants (PPR)

Peste des petits ruminants (PPR) is a highly contagious viral disease of sheep and goats caused by a Morbillivirus of the family Paramyxoviridae, believed to have evolved from the rinderpest virus. PPR is transmitted via direct contact and often results in high morbidity and mortality, with a characteristic fever, necrotic stomatitis, enteritis and bronchopneumonia. It can be misdiagnosed as bacterial pneumonia due to secondary infections.

In the past two decades PPR has spread rapidly across 76 countries; mostly in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Globally, the virus is estimated to cause $2 billion in losses each year. In January 2017, PPR was confirmed as the cause of a mass mortality of critically endangered saiga antelope in Mongolia, marking the first detection in free-ranging antelope.

PPR has never occurred in Australia, but an outbreak would affect both local and export markets, and cause serious losses in the sheep and goat industries. PPR should be suspected when goats or sheep are affected with an acute febrile diarrhoea accompanied by erosions of the mouth lining and high morbidity and mortality, or where there is a high incidence of pneumonia. If rapid spread from animal to animal is occurring, and animals of all ages are sick and dying, then you should consider PPR in your list of differential diagnoses.

Would you be able to recognise the signs of PPR?

African swine fever

Outbreaks of African swine fever (ASF) continue in Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Russia and the Ukraine. A study published in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases reports development of a new serological pen-side test to support emergency management and surveillance for ASF in the field. The test was found to have a lower sensitivity (81.8%) and specificity (95.9%) than gold-standard laboratory tests, but provided a cheaper test option and more rapid results.

Global AI Update

Since our last issue, outbreaks of avian influenza have occurred across multiple regions. A selection of the most notable events are reported below.

H7N9 (China)

The fifth annual wave of avian influenza A(H7N9) in China is ongoing, with a significant increase in reported human cases compared to previous years. The majority of human cases have a recent history of close contact with infected poultry or their environments. In previous waves only H7N9 low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) viruses were detected. Sequencing of samples from the current wave has also confirmed involvement of H7N9 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses.

H7N9 (United States)

In March 2017, the US reported outbreaks in poultry of both H7N9 HPAI and H7N9 LPAI, caused by a North American wild bird lineage virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these viruses differ to those currently circulating in China and pose a low public health risk.

H7N2 (United States)

A human case of influenza A(H7N2) was confirmed in the US in December 2016 in a veterinarian following exposure to infected cats at an animal shelter. The case marks the first recorded transmission of the strain from cats to humans. Human-to-human transmission has not been documented.

H5N8, H5N5 & H5N6 (Europe)

Following detection of H5N8 HPAI in a wild bird in Hungary (October 2016), the virus has since been detected in wild birds in a further 22 EU member states, and in poultry in 17 member states. In addition, H5N5 HPAI and H5N6 HPAI have also been reported in poultry. The European Commission provides a detailed map and chronology of events.

The H5N8 HPAI global situation update from the Food and Agriculture Organization also highlights the pandemic potential and recent intercontinental spread of the H5N8 HPAI virus to Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

Recent publications

Hendra virus risk perceptions

Researchers have developed a conceptual model to investigate risk perceptions and coping factors associated with uptake of Hendra virus risk mitigation practices amongst non- and partially- vaccinating horse owners. The role of veterinarians in promoting Hendra risk mitigation was identified as more influential than that of respected peers or friends.

The role of fomites in disease spread

Researchers have shown that looking at movements of operators and vehicles between farms in the same way we look at contacts in social networks can help explain the spread of infectious diseases of livestock, such as FMD and HPAI. This research may contribute to the development of more accurate tools for predicting the spread of livestock diseases and may help implement more effective on-farm biosecurity measures.

Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations

A global partnership to stimulate innovation and part-finance the development of new vaccines for epidemic infectious diseases was launched in January 2017. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations will initially focus on development of candidate vaccines for humans against three important zoonoses: MERS-CoV, Lassa and Nipah viruses.


You may be looking at the first case and you do not want to become famous as the vet who missed it!

Use the hotline number 1800 675 888 or contact your local government vet.  You are not alone.