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PART 2: Case study

The following is a short case study where a private veterinarian makes a clinical diagnosis of an EAD on farm and calls the Emergency Animal Disease Hotline. It is followed by some questions that a vet may commonly be asked by the affected farmer. This case study is designed as a taster for the detailed case studies explored in subsequent modules.

Background and history

A new graduate, Sheila, has been working in mixed practice in the Hunter Valley for the last three months. It is her first weekend on-call and a client, farmer Bill, has asked her to look at some dead cows on Saturday morning. One was found dead earlier in the week and the farmer is concerned because this morning he found two more dead cows. It is a mob of 70 black Angus cows on flat paddock grazing predominantly native pastures with some phalaris. The cows were vaccinated with a 5-in-1 pre-calving and their calves were weaned a month ago at nine months of age.

Photo: T. Tan


There is no obvious cause of sudden death. The veterinarian, Sheila, is suspicious that anthrax may be the cause and has brought along some anthrax ICT kits from the clinic. Even though there is no blood seen from the animals’ orifices, she dons the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) before approaching the carcasses. Click on the image for information about PPE for the sampling of anthrax.

Photo: T. Tan

Personal Protective Equipment that can be discarded or held in biosecure conditions pending test results should be worn. Overalls, glasses, P2 facemask, disposable gloves and impervious boots should be used. The same PPE should not be used on other properties or for examination of unaffected stock following examination and/or sampling of affected stock.

Shelia tests the blood of each cow using the anthrax ICT kits. Instructions for using the anthrax ICT can be found here (PDF).

Photo: North West Local Land Services

The ICT show a second faint pink line – a positive result!

Not all animals dying from anthrax will show characteristic signs of blood-stained discharges from external orifices. Death without premonitory signs may be the only clue to the possible cause of death. In cases of unexplained sudden death in stock, it is advisable to rule out anthrax before proceeding with the rest of the investigation, especially post-mortem examination.


Because it is the weekend and she doesn’t want to disturb her boss, the veterinarian, Sheila, decides to contact the DPI/EAD hotline directly on 1800 675 888.

Play the audio recording of the conversation.