Big Hendra turn-out
ABOUT 150 local horse owners and residents gathered last night to learn more the dreaded ‘H’ word – Hendra.
Organised by veterinarian Chris Reardon, two guest speakers – Biosecurity Queensland’s Dr Fiona Thompson and the Queensland Horse Council president Debbie Dekker – spoke to the large crowd about the virus and what could be done to prevent it.
Prior to the meeting, Dr Reardon said the euthanasia of Dusty, the dog who was found carrying the virus, was “another interesting chapter”.
“We sympathise with people who’ve lost horses and pets to Hendra virus but we also need to understand as much information as we can,” he said.
“Euthanasia was the only option and this dog could’ve presented with clinical signs (of Hendra). If it was kept alive it would have had to be kept in laboratory environment, which wouldn’t have been a nice existence.”
Dr Fiona Thompson told the audience the virus was first detected in September 1994, and had been relatively unchanged since then.
“The virus is quite stable – it doesn’t change or mutate like, say the flu virus,” she said.
“It also doesn’t survive for long periods in the environment.”
In its optimum environment – cool, moist areas – Dr Thompson said the virus has been known to stay active for up to four days.
“It’s places like under trees where flying foxes have defecated, and that don’t get sunlight and stay cool and moist that it survives the longest,” she explained.
While the virus has a low infectivity rate, it has a high mortality rate.
Of the horses and humans to be infected, 75% of the horses have died, along with 57% humans.
Since its discovery in 1994 though, just 59 horses worldwide have been found to be infected with Hendra Virus.
Dr Thompson explained Biosecurity’s policy for euthanizing horses found with Hendra, saying it was vital to prevent it passing to humans.
“If a horse survives the Hendra Virus, we’re not sure whether they get rid of it altogether or if they harbour it,” she said.
Horse owners who fear their horse might show symptoms are urged to contact their local vet immediately.
Some of the signs horses present when infected:
Loss of vision