A letter appeared in our columns yesterday from Mr. Thomas Smith, of Mintaro, relative to a very destructive and apparently contagious disease which is now raging amongst cattle in that neighbourhood. Mr. Smith seems afraid to call this disease pleuro-pneumonia, and probably he is right; for although the symptoms which he describes are alarming, they do not appear to correspond very closely with those of that most fatal disease. He says— ‘The cattle are at first affected with a cough-; soon after a frothing at the mouth and choking, and in most cases are dead within four days from the commencement of the frothing. Upon opening the whole of the inside appears ulcerated and rotten.’ He then states that one person has lost ten head of cattle from this disease, and another eight head, within a short space of time; whilst on the question of contagion, he says that the skin of one of the bullocks which died was placed as a covering over a calf-pen, and in a short time the calf died, with all the symptoms of the disease.
These facts have been brought under the notice of the Government, who have lost no time in communicating with persons in the neighbourhood who are qualified to examine, and to give an opinion on, the disease of which these cattle died. In the meantime, we trust that owners of diseased bullocks will use the utmost care to prevent, the spread of contagion. Whether our correspondent be right or wrong as to the contagious character of the disease, there cannot be too much caution exercised in the disposal of the dead carcases. The careless act of using the skin of one of the diseased animals as covering for a calf-pen was the surest way of infecting other cattle, supposing the disease to be contagious. The very first step should have been to burn all the carcases of the cattle that had died.
But we hope it will turn out that this disease is not contagious. The symptoms, as described by our correspondent, are different from those of pleuro-pneumonia. A cough is not the most marked feature of the first attack in that disease, nor is ‘the whole of the inside ulcerated and rotten’ when the disease has run its course. Pleuro-pneumonia, as the name implies, is an affection of the lungs and its membranes. Still there is every reason why careful enquiry should be made. It will, perhaps, be found that the cattle at Mintaro are suffering from some non-contagious disease, brought on by the very wet season which has prevailed. Some portions of the neighbourhood lie low, and so far this would favour such an impression, for the immunity from cattle disease which the colony has hitherto enjoyed has hitherto been attributed to the comparative dryness of its climate.
It would be a serious matter to the whole of the colonies at the present moment if a contagious disease were to break out amongst the cattle of South Australia. In the adjacent provinces the herds are so much diseased that people are looking to this colony for their ordinary supply of meat. Many people, it is said, have left off eating beef altogether, so much afraid are they of the injurious effect it may have upon their health. They have taken too literally, it appears, the cautions which writers and lecturers have urged upon them, and are becoming vegetarians, as the only way of protecting themselves from the threatened evil. We observe that amongst the most prominently noticed lectures on the subject of pleuro-pneumonia is one by Dr. Smith, who adopts the theory that inoculation is altogether a mistake, inasmuch as affections of the pleura are not to be traced to the action of any special virus. The remedy which he recommends is bleeding and the administration of iodide of potash; but neither this nor any other remedy will be of use except in the very earliest stage of the disease. Whilst this view of the question may be the right one, we trust that there will be no necessity to put it to the test in this colony.