Emergency Animal Disease Alerts, Vol. 9 Issue 2

​​​​March 2015

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)

In January 2015, 2 new cases of BSE were reported from Norway (first case) and Canada (last case 2011).

The Norwegian case was a 15 year old cow with no clinical signs tested as part of their surveillance program. The Canadian cow was born on a farm that reported a case in 2010. Investigations are ongoing in both instances.

New cases are being reported in countries previously free from this disease. Australia’s TSE surveillance program is crucial in providing confidence to trading partners of our status.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)

Cases of the novel coronavirus MERS-CoV continue to be reported in the Middle East. As of 23 February 2015, 1,026 cases (855 in Saudi Arabia) have been confirmed with 376 deaths since 2012 – a higher death toll than from H5N1 over 10 years.

Surveys in Dubai have revealed that 95% of camels >3 years of age are immune to MERS-CoV (80% of camels > 1 year old had antibodies). The virus has been isolated from the nasal discharge from camel calves but cannot be detected after approximately 7 days. Transmission from camels is thought to be a low risk. 

This is supported by a survey of 191 people exposed to camels in Al-Ahsa, Saudi Arabia, which concluded that MERS-CoV was not highly transmissible from dromedaries to humans.

Henipavirus infections

During 2014 horse to human and human to human transmission of henipavirus was detected in the Philippines. High fatality rates (82%) in humans were reported. Work is continuing to identify the virus, but it is most likely to be a Nipah or a closely associated virus. Fruit bats were considered the most likely source of infection for the horses.

Porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus (PEDv)

A study in the USA has shown sows infected 7 months previously with a mild strain of PEDv, provided lactogenic immunity to piglets against a severe strain of the virus.

During 2014 severe outbreaks of PEDv were reported in the Ukraine, raising concern of spread to Russia and neighbouring European countries. Mild strains of PEDv were reported in Germany and the Netherlands.

University of Minnesota  has recently reported three strains of PEDv in the USA – the original PEDv, PEDv with spike changes (INDEL) and the recently reported PEDv  strain S2aa-del.

Lumpy skin disease (LSD)

LSD is caused by a capripox virus which is endemic in Africa and the Middle East, with recent outbreaks in Syria, Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Azerbaijan, northern Cyprus and Kuwait. It causes substantial losses for beef and dairy producers and restrictions on trade of live animals and their products.

Transmission is by arthropod vectors, direct contact, via feed and water and iatrogenic means. Control measures rely on vaccination and culling infected animals. Only live attenuated vaccines are available. Homologous vaccines have been found to be more effective than sheep pox vaccines. The European Food Safety Authority recently released a scientific opinion on LSD and its risks to Europe.

Good photographs of lesions in cattle on Cyprus and information on the current outbreak.

Influenza A

Reports since last issue:
ProMED-mail website
CIDRAP University of Minnesota - Avian flu findings reported in 6 far-flung nations
CIDRAP University of Minnesota - News & Perspective


Reported in a pelican and chickens in Bulgaria, two tigers and Anatidae in China, turkeys in Israel and India, birds in Palestine, humans  in Egypt and China and poultry in Canada, USA, Vietnam and Myanmar.


Low pathogenic reported in poultry in Belize and high pathogenic reported in birds in China, poultry farms in Taiwan, back yard and turkey flocks in USA (associated with infection in migratory birds in the Pacific flyway).


Reported in geese and wild birds in Taiwan.


Human case and in geese reported in China.


Outbreaks were reported in Hungary (domestic ducks). USA (back yard, commercial poultry and wild birds), a duck in Japan, a dog and ducks in South Korea, ducks in Taiwan.


Low pathogenic virus in poultry in UK, Germany and The Netherlands.


Further human cases were reported in southern China. There have now been more than 640 human cases in China.  Passerine birds may spread virus via water to poultry.


First human case reported in Egypt.

In other news the WHO issued a warning concerning the recent co-circulation of avian influenza strains in birds providing the opportunity for swapping of genetic material, which may result in new strains for which current vaccines are not effective or in pandemic strains.

The UK produced a report for the EU on recent outbreaks of H5 HPAI.

Researchers have found that a seasonal flu vaccine induces antibodies that protect against H7N9 avian influenza in mice.

Encephalitis – Bornavirus suspected

Three breeders of variegated squirrels died of encephalitis in 2011-2013 in Saxony, Germany. Genetic analysis of tissues from the breeders and their squirrels indicate the presence of a novel Bornavirus. Work is continuing to elucidate the nature of this potentially zoonotic virus.

Transmissible gastroenteritis (TGE)

An outbreak of TGE was recently reported in Argentina and it’s a good reason to be alert to emergency animal diseases that have been known for some time.

TGE is caused by a virus in the Coronaviridae family. It is closely related to porcine respiratory virus and causes a disease syndrome similar to PEDv, with high mortality in piglets. It is an OIE listed disease and is listed in the Australian Emergency Animal Disease Response

Agreement. Detailed information on TGE is available on the AHA AUSVETPLAN website.


Recent ecological research in Africa has shown that nutrients from decomposing anthrax carcasses alter the environment so that some grazing herbivores are attracted to the site in the first year after death and so perpetuate the anthrax infection cycle. This further strengthens the case for decontamination of death sites and carcass disposal by burning.

There have been two cases of anthrax in Australia recently, with one occurring in NSW and another in Victoria.

Leprosy in armadillos

Recent cases of leprosy in humans in Florida have been the result of close contact with 9-banded armadillos.

Mycobacterium leprae infected armadillos are found in Texas and Louisiana, where armadillos are hunted and eaten. Armadillos are susceptible to leprosy due to their unusually low body temperature (34°​​C), similar to human skin temperature.

A novel disease causing diffuse dermatitis in red squirrels in Scotland has been associated with an organism similar to M. lepromatosis. Further work is underway to characterise the bacteria.

Exclusion testing

Exclusion testing is undertaken when a clinical syndrome is present and an emergency animal disease is included in the differential diagnosis. Exclusion testing is undertaken by the jurisdiction at no cost to the owner and no imposition of legal restrictions unless the there is strong reason to suspect the disease is present or the laboratory diagnosis is positive for the EAD.

Exclusion testing is important as it demonstrates to our trading partners that we are looking for the presence of EADs. If you include the possibility (even remotely) of an EAD in your differential diagnosis you should contact your local government veterinary officer and discuss arrangements for an exclusion test. Detailed histories will be required.


In recent press reports, Chinese researchers claim to have inserted the mouse gene SP110 into the genome of Holstein-Freisian cattle which causes Mycobacterium bovis to multiply at a much reduced rate, significantly reducing the disease and increasing the potential for their offspring to be resistant to infection with TB in natural circumstances.

Emergency Disease Watch Hotline: 1800 675 888

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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