Swedish farm hit by anthrax outbreak

A farm in the vicinity of Varberg in western Sweden has been hit by an outbreak of anthrax. Thirteen cattle have so far died from the disease which has not been seen in Sweden since 1981 and is harmful to humans.

“This disease is not to be taken lightly,” said Bengt Larsson at the Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control (Smittskyddsinstitutet) to news agency TT.

The alarm over the outbreak was sounded on Wednesday evening as suspicions emerged in connection with a veterinary visit at the farm. By then 13 animals had died over a 12 day period.

The National Veterinary Institute (SVA) confirmed on Friday evening that it was a case of anthrax.

“The disease is classified under epizootic legislation which shows just how serious it is and the department of agriculture (Jordbruksverket) can decide on the appropriate measures,” Bengt Larsson said.

One of the first measures was to place the farm, which is close to Varberg in western Sweden, in quarantine.

The farm houses a total of 70 animals and all trading from the farm has now been forbidden and no unauthorized people are admitted to the area.

Anthrax can be transmitted from animals to humans but it is an unusual occurrence. The bacteria can not however pass from human to human.

Larsson was asked whether there was a risk of human infection.

“I don’t think so as they have been treated with antibiotics. They are effective against the disease.”

Bengt Larsson stated that the disease is not as contagious as blue tongue disease or influenza.

Anthrax is a bacteria and its origin is as yet unknown, according to TV4 Halland. There is a theory that it comes from the soil.

“It could be that the animals have been grazing in areas which have been dug up and where traces of dead animals infected with the bacteria remain. The traces can remain in the soil for up to 50 years,” Larsson explained to TT.

“However we have not as yet been able to confirm any obvious source of infection.”

The last time Sweden was hit by an outbreak of anthrax was in 1981 in Uppland just north of Stockholm.