An outbreak of anthrax, the first in NSW in four years, has killed dozens of cattle on two properties near Moree in the state's north.
The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has confirmed the presence of the deadly disease after testing was completed at its Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute.
The DPI said "around 40 head of cattle have died as a result of the disease" however a DPI email obtained by Fairfax Regional Media puts the number of deaths at 37.
The email said 19 cattle were reported to have been affected on one property, three per cent of the total herd, and 18 on the other, also three per cent of the total.
It also says cattle were from two neighbouring properties in the watercourse district, west of Moree were affected.
LISTEN: NSW DPI Chief Veterinary Officer Ian Roth confirms anthrax outbreak near Moree
A horse died on the second property but it was not tested for anthrax.
The carcasses of the dead cattle had been burnt and other animals at risk had been vaccinated.
A DPI spokesman today said the infected properties have been quarantined and DPI and Livestock Health and Pest Authority officials are working closely with the property owners.
"All remaining cattle have now been vaccinated and there have been no further deaths on either property since March 9, 2013," he said. "Extensive tracing has confirmed that animals have not left the property and that the disease has not spread to other properties.
A Moree veterinary hospital spokesman confirmed it had received phone calls from concerned clients in relation to anthrax but those calls were referred to the DPI.
This is the state's first outbreak of bovine anthrax since 2009.
Map of New South Wales, Australia, showing the anthrax belt (gray shading). Map courtesy Journal of Emerging Infectious Disease, 2009.
Outbreaks in NSW tend to be confined to an "anthrax belt" which runs between Bourke and Moree in the north to Albury and Deniliquin in the south.
Moree Plains Shire Council mayor Katrina Humphries said she learnt of the outbreak this afternoon but said she would be making inquiries into how council could assist.
“Anthrax is a dreadful, dreadful disease and it’s extremely scary,” Cr Humphries said. “I will be making inquiries but it sounds like it’s all in hand.
“We’ll be doing anything that's asked of us to make sure this is confined to the smallest space possible.”
Livestock Health and Pest Authority general manager Jane Edwards said the matter has been dealt with along procedural lines.
“In the case of an anthrax incident the LHPA staff conduct an investigation in accordance with the DPI policy and procedures in relation to anthrax," she said.
"In accordance of those policies and procedures upon immediate detection by the LHPA staff, such an incident is reported directly to appropriate authorities at DPI."
According to the Journal of Emerging Infectious Disease of May, 2009, the authors concluded with the following statement: " ... veterinary public health authorities should be on high alert for possible anthrax when unexpected livestock deaths follow flooding in areas where anthrax has historically occurred."