Now of all the stock diseases one has to combat with in this great State, there is none that carries greater danger to life, in human beings as well as stock than Anthrax.
It is a fact that to us, who handle this disease in Districts that it is prevalent in, the dread of it as well as its ravages, is minimised to a wonderful degree, due to our more extensive knowledge of symptoms both ante and post-mortem, and what a marvellous preventative is at our disposal by vaccination.
The study and experience amongst Anthrax outbreaks one must say, has its thrills, or intrigues in a sense, as there is so much to guard against, and what wonderfully effective work can be done, and to all working as Stock Inspectors, this is in itself one of the attractions in our walk of life, making a success of such types of work, and seeing that the man on the land is reaping the reward of our knowledge and assistance.
In Anthrax cases, good and bad work on the Stock Inspector's part, has its effect to the present stock owners, and also to the future owner of the same property, for in this District, outbreaks have occurred on areas which were not recorded as Anthrax country for 40 years at least, as far as our records go and beyond that it is believed. How essential it is to watch that the details necessary for the control of this disease are effectively carried out; no dragging carcases about, no opening, and the thorough burning of the carcase and everything else connected with same. I myself cannot agree that burying is the right thing to do, for I have seen pigs burrowing into a bank many feet deep and getting bones of sheep carcases, which had died of Anthrax, and these pigs contracted this disease.
When Anthrax has been definitely diagnosed by Glenfleld, it is a disease that within 9 days, can be checked in stock as a rule, by vaccination. Deaths do occur, but same have been due to bad handling of the sheep before and after the inoculation. Sheep should be handled most carefully and quietly for some hours before inoculations are done; and the greatest care should be taken, especially in hot weather, to see that they are not harassed or moved about unduly after inoculations, as they run a high temperature, and are very sick animals for at least a week. There have been greater losses at times in this District by bad handling of sheep inoculated, than by the disease itself while in the sheep.
There is always an element of risk in handling sheep that are in a mob in which Anthrax has broken out for many reasons, and perhaps, more so, if it is not known just how the infection has taken place. It is quite possible to inoculate a sheep that has Anthrax, but it is rare I think, for the movement prior to inoculation, by mustering, etc., and generally hastens the disease and the sheep will be seen down in the yard, or while driving them, rarely will you see one dying in the yard after inoculation, but frequently in the yard, prior to inoculation.
It is necessary, and an Inspector's duty, to always have his hands free of marks or scratches, if be is handling Anthrax or suspects, and if this is so, the danger of infection is not so great as generally believed, as I will try to show by my own experience, and in doing this, also show how necessary it is to be careful a carcase has not died of Anthrax before you meddle with it. This latter, in my experience, has been difficult, and is why, in three instances which I will quote. I made P.M.'s and did everything should not have done with Anthrax carcases.
It is a fact that to obtain the history of some sick or dead animals from the owner, is a very difficult task, at any rate to get a correct history to help in an ante mortem diagnosis of the trouble so much is told you that is second hand or purely imaginative, that it often leads you astray, and it is here that your wits should be alert to confirm what is told you or not, by interrogation, etc.. and then you may be in a position to place a value on what has been told you, and thus gain assistance from same. In Anthrax, you are often, I feel sure, put off the true facts, owing to the owner's dread of the trouble, and again, they often won't believe you when it is proved to be such (In one case on a station in this District, the manager wrote to the Board stating that he had been put to unnecessary expense, as he was sure the disease had been something else. He was just an unbeliever no more nor less, and no one could have converted him, as he knew all there was to learnt of Anthrax himself, and so on…).
You have all heard about how you may find the Anthrax carcase, and you have heard that Crows will not touch them and so on, but from my experience, it is dangerous to lay down anything like a set idea of how you could identify an Anthrax carcase, for in this, as watchful as I have been I have failed, and I was almost sure of my case.
You will find Anthrax carcases without any ante mortem signs of this disease whatever; you will see some without the swelling we find so frequent; without the blood tinged with froth, either from the nostrils or anus; you will find dogs and crows eating the carcase and no harm resulting; and you will find carcases, which is most important of all on areas of which there is no record of Anthrax ever having been on same before, and this is dangerous, especially as there may he other suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of the animal (that it was caused by something else) and your confidence is such that no necessary precautions are taken in case it may be Anthrax.
I have in my experience, as previously stated, been mistaken in the death of the animal, and was actually of the belief that some thing else had been the cause of such death, and by describing hereunder three such instances, you will be able to see whether I have been wilfully careless, or whether they are cases similar to those I have warned you against earlier in this article.
The sheep in this instance were dying, and a number showed sick before death. I held a P.M. on several, and to me the trouble was definitely impaction of the third stomach, which was in a very bad state, and the other P.M. signs were to this effect. Ante mortem history was that it was late summer, the grass was high and dry and tough, and of a type that would create trouble with the digestive track of the sheep—wire grass, etc. I had the necessary treatment carried, viz., licks, succulent food and etc., but still the deaths continued for a longer period than they should, I again held P.M.s on several and saw suspicious signs of trouble in the spleen, and Glenfied did the rest—Anthrax. Some of these sheep died while being driven from one paddock to another, and for a time showed sick, but did not have the struggles and death grips that the Anthrax animals die with.
Pigs. A butcher told me he had pigs sick and that some had died. The animals were particularly well cared for at the slaughter yard; they had their pens and runs, and even had good wallows, into which water was pumped from the river, as it was summer time and very hot. This water was pumped into a low end of the runs, and where many years ago, a small creek had had its course—a fact which I discovered later. The pigs while wallowing in the water and mud, used to burrow into the bank. and I saw this when investigating, but did not worry about it. I saw several pigs sick in the pens and also one carcase which had been dead a few hours, but saw nothing whatever to help me to diagnose the cause of the trouble, so had to hold a P.M. on the carcase. On opening the pig in the usual manner, as if to open a book—not disturbing anything unnecessarily, I saw all the signs of poisoning; much congestion of the digestive tract especially the stomach; the larynx from the back of the tongue right down the gullet was congested, and looked a typical diphtheria case. I carefully made sure to get all the specimens I thought Glenfield would require for examination purposes, and off they went with my report and before the specimens had arrived at Glenfield, I received a wire to say that my report showed almost definite signs of anthrax and to treat the trouble as such until confirmed or otherwise later. Some of the affected pigs recovered after losing mast (sic) of their hair.
In this case, which occurred at a time when the three days' sickness was fairly prevalent in the district, the dairyman of whose cattle I am reporting definitely had several cases and recoveries of the sickness, and he also had two deaths. Being extremely busy at the time, I passed off the first deaths as being due to the three days’ sickness, as the owner also said he was under the same impression, and the cows were of a type that would not put up a great fight as others (Jerseys). A short while after, two more sick cows were reported, and as the three days' sickness had almost abated, I thought it wise to investigate the trouble.
It was definitely stated to me by the owner, as well as by the men doing the milking, that both the sick cows I saw became sick about the same time the day before, which would be about 30 hours previous. One cow was standing up and had had a drink a short while before I saw her, and she walked about fairly freely. I was of the opinion that she was recovering from three days sickness, as the owner declared that she had improved very much. The other cow was down; she had her head round towards her side a good deal, in a way that you would be inclined to believe to be an extra had attack of three days' sickness. I took her temperature, and this showed two points above normal, and the cow being so sick, made me think that some other trouble might be wrong with her. In about 15 minutes the cow showed great pain, she moved her head quickly from side to side, and every now and again drew her legs up tightly under her. She would ease a bit and then get the spasms again. She was slobbering a fair amount, and her eyes showed congestion fairly badly. About 15 minutes after her struggles became bad, this cow died, with her head out tightly, mouth open and the tongue extended.
With the exception of the symptoms mentioned, the carcase was absolutely normal, and with her history, would anyone say that she had died of Anthrax? I had no thought of this being so, and had the three days' sickness in mind—in a very bad form, and thought would be sure to get something more than is general in P.M.s on such cases.
I took off the side legs and opened up the carcase from the flank to the neck, with a knife and tomahawk, and there were symtoms (sic) of a bad case of poisoning, with the exception of the spleen, which was about half as big again than normal and was very blotched. I naturally queried the spleen, but dropped the thought of Anthrax, and examined every other organ. The first two stomachs were full of ingesta—otherwise normal. The third stomach, omassum (sic), was greatly enlarged and hard and the contents drier than normal. The fourth stomach, abomassum (sic), showed patches of congestion, and on opening it, I found it to be empty of solids with the exception of a handful of millet, seeds and moisture. From here on down the intestines patches of congestion showed. The uterus (empty) was almost black with congestion, and also thickened a good deal. The liver was engorded (sic), as well as the kidneys. The heart showed patches of congestion right into the tissue. Blood flowed freely and was dark colour, but not black, and did not clot: but as the animal was so sick and died such a death, I did not take this as being serious, as I should have done. I considered everything that might have poisoned this cow, and even suspected some sacharine (sic), which was growing near by.
I collected all the specimens I thought to be of use for Glenfield and sent down my report, and back came a phone message—Anthrax.
Never, in the history of the farm in question, has any record been found to the effect that Anthrax had been on it. It is off Anthrax country a long way—as far as we know, and the farm is an irrigation one and is well cultivated, and cattle were grazed on millet and lucerne, which was fairly green and there was a solid body of this fodder.
The following day, after the abovementioned P.M., another cow died fairly suddenly, but there was no P.M. on this one, as the Glenfield message had been received.
Referring back to the early paragraphs of this case, the first cow mentioned, of the two I saw sick, recovered.
In passing, I might mention that during the last 18 months, three cases of Anthrax in humans came under my notice, these being in hospitals in this District, and I only came to hear of each ease through the doctors inquiring after certain information of a helpful nature from myself.
Anthrax is not a notifiable disease in humans and why it is not is hard to understand. In each of the aforementioned cases in humans the origin was traced. In two instances, the skinning of dead carcases was the cause of the attacks, and in the other, a skin buyer who had bought the skin of a cow that had died, and from which washings were taken by Glenfield, and Anthrax germs were found in same.
Dr. Lethbridge, of this town, appears to be able to handle bad cases of Anthrax pustules in humans, as the last case was with out doubt longstanding and very serious, as the arm was swollen very greatly. In treating this disease, heavy injections of Anthrax serum are innoculated into the blood, as well as barriers being placed around the effected (sic) part, in order to prevent spreading as much as possible. It may be that my crude description of a few problems, you will in all probability experience, will be helpful and perhaps interesting.