Cows feed at Swedish dairy farm
Cows feed at a dairy farm in SwedenGetty

Nine animals have died in Sweden from anthrax within the last month, say reports from the Scandinavian country. One horse and eight cattle on different farms have been struck down with the infection, only a couple kilometres apart.

Both farms were located near Omberg, in the Östergötland region of southern Sweden. Translated in thelocal.se, an official with Sweden's National Veterinary Institute told media: "It is of course a loss to the owner of the animals and a concern for the surrounding area. We know that there is an increased risk that each case could spread locally."

Traces of the bacteria can survive for a long time but humans generally only contract the disease if they are in close contact with an infected animal that is dying or has died.

"Back in the days so-called anthrax graves were common. You simply dug a hole for the cows that died and in connection with earth works the infection could spread again, but it could also be because of infection from wild animals," said the official.

With the latest cases, authorities are asking people to report any dead elk or deer found to the Swedish Board of Agriculture.

According to the World Heath Organisation (WHO), anthrax was a "major cause" of fatalities in a number of herbivorous mammals until vaccines became available and were in widespread use. Though the WHO says records of person-to-person spread of the disease exist, it is "generally regarded as being non-contagious".

Although this week saw an outbreak of anthrax in a remote part of northern Russia that took a young boy's life and has led to 90 people seeking checks for the disease. It's thought the disease was spread by reindeer, 2,300 of which have died in the outbreak.