Things were just getting back to normal in the Australian state of New South Wales, where an outbreak of Equine Influenza locked down the horse industry, canceled racing and shows, and delayed breedings since August. Transporting horses even short distances was forbidden.
All this after the Australian horse world had been affected by drought so severe that horse owners were being taught how to feed cardboard shreds as a substitute for forage. A bizarre condition known as "Australian stringhalt" was reported, in which horses passtured on drought-ravaged paddocks exhibit hitchy gait symptoms from eating certain plants.
Now comes the third blow: since Christmas, anthrax has killed 30 cattle and at least one horse near the horsey town of Scone in the lovely Hunter Valley north of Sydney. The area is home to many of Australia's leading horse breeding farms.
The Australian Broadcast Corporation is also reporting tonight that the first horse event to be allowed in the area since the EI outbreak had to be canceled because of the anthrax danger.
Anthrax is a bacterial disease carried by spores that live in the soil; they are usually dormant but drought often brings anthrax to the surface. Anthrax-infected carcasses are a common cause of an outbreak. For that reason, an animal that dies from anthrax must be burned until its bones are ash, according to the reports.
Cattle and one horse have died on nine different properties in the area, according to ABC.
Anthrax is deadly to horses and humans.
I hope this is the last tragic story I have to write this year. We began the year with EHV in Florida and I think I have reported on most of the major infectious equine diseases affecting horses somewhere on the planet. Blog readers by now must know what EHV, EI, EVA, CEM, WNV, PHF, VS, EIA, EEE and AHS stand for, since they popped up in the news reports of this blog in 2007. Strangles, salmonella and anthrax don't have acronyms but I have written about those contagious diseases, too, this year.
That Equine Infectious Diseases (Sellon and Long, 2007, Saunders/Elsevier Publishers) textbook/cd-rom was a good investment, after all.
Update: Read an article published January 9th about the anthrax cases in Australiahere.