Hendra virus cases raise concerns
EQUINE Veterinarians Australia president and local vet Dr Chris Reardon has urged horse owners to be vigilant in the wake of three outbreaks of the Hendra virus in the past week.
The outbreaks have been at Beaudesert, Boonah and near Lismore.
In recent years, seven people have contracted the virus, of whom four have died – including two vets.
Dr Reardon warned no one should expect the virus to spread like equine influenza (EI).
“It is not spread by air or wind like EI,” he said.
“It is always a concern when one of my colleagues is involved in a case. We need to know more about how it is transmitted to humans.”
He said a horse could get very sick with the bat-transmitted disease within 72 hours.
Signs of the virus included a horse that is lethargic, a nasal discharge or a temperature.
Dr Reardon said he hoped a vaccine, which was currently being tested, would be available soon.
“Any horse which is taken to sporting events should be vaccinated. We need a big education program about Hendra virus,” he said.
“My organisation is asking the government to reimburse the cost of veterinary surgeons suiting up ($10 to $15) to perform tests on these cases as there are a limited number of government veterinarians doing surveillance work.”
Queensland Performance Horse Industry Alliance president Kent Wells said his major concern was for his members at risk of catching the virus as well as the horses.
“We need more funding from the State Government towards education of horse owners,” he said.
“We believe the antibodies provided for humans should be made available to anyone in contact with the horses affected by the virus.
“Currently, Queensland Health won't provide the antibodies unless a human has high exposure.”
Being a farrier and a service provider, Mr Wells said he would like more information about where initial cases were.
“You could be working next to a property where horses are being tested for Hendra virus.
“It could be a member of one of our affiliated associations and I would like more support for them.”
Wells said, as an industry, his members were keen to push for vaccinating horses for the virus.
“We have a billion dollar industry and we haven't even got a permanent horse industry liaison officer within the DEEDI (old DPI),” he said.
“The industry is getting very little support federally.”