Microbat Contributed

Horse industry slams neglect

HORSE industry officials are demanding more resources be put into equine disease research, in the wake of a world first case where two Southern Downs horses contracted the deadly Australian Bat Lyssavirus.

Acting chairman of the Australian Horse Industry Association and chairman of the Australian Stockhorse Association Joy Poole said the case at Highborne Farm, west of Allora, was an example of why the government needed to step in and help industry fund more research.

"It used to be that the money put in to horse disease research by industry was matched by the government, but that has recently changed and now the money is basically only coming from industry," Ms Poole told the Daily News.

"So we need to revisit how we fund research and how we can get on top of this properly."

Being a world first case in horses, Ms Poole said there were still so many unanswered questions.

"It is very worrying at the moment because we don't know anything about it," she said.

"We don't know whether the disease terminates in the horse or whether it is capable of passing onto humans.

"So until we get some scientific information and knowledge about it, it's a real worry."

Ms Poole said an event like this injected fear into the industry and would likely see horse owners withdraw from travelling as much as they normally would for competitions and events, in fear of infecting their horses.

Chief veterinary officers from each state are due to meet today to discuss last week's test results.

Biosecurity Queensland chief officer Jim Thompson said this group would work together to develop the next step.

"As we haven't seen this disease in horses before, this group will provide guidance and advice on further disease management requirements including quarantine restrictions for the property, and other measures that may need to be put in place," Dr Thompson said.

He and his team were at the farm at the weekend assessing the property, and despite earlier claims that no bats were found on the property, one dead microbat was discovered at the weekend.

"Microbats, including a dead bat had been observed on the property, but not in close association with the horses," Dr Thompson said.

"All Australian bat species are considered susceptible to ABLV.

"Officers have also started assessing the location of microbat and other bat colonies, including flying foxes, in the area."

Other horse owners are encouraged to take safety precautions with their animals.

"Owners are advised to take all reasonable steps to keep their animals away from bats," Dr Thompson said.

"It is also important to ensure sound hygiene and biosecurity measures are routinely adopted for all contact with horses, their blood and body fluids and associated equipment."

Chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young said Queensland Health had identified eight human contacts of the sick horses and remains available to assist with any further enquiries about exposure.

"As a result of this contact tracing, seven people have been offered a course of treatment which prevents Lyssavirus in humans," Dr Young said.

"The recommended course of treatment must be administered in a timely manner and comprises rabies immunoglobulin and rabies vaccine.

"One other person was deemed to have had such a low exposure to the horse that preventative treatment was not required.

"There is no test available for Lyssavirus before symptoms appear."

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