Dr Chris Reardon says good personal hygiene with all animals is the key to minimising the spread of disease.
Dr Chris Reardon says good personal hygiene with all animals is the key to minimising the spread of disease. Shannon Newley

Raw Hendra deal for vets

THEY are on the frontline when it comes to dealing with sick horses but Dr Chris Reardon said veterinarians have been neglected in the $6 million dollars handed down for Hendra virus research by the state government yesterday.

Dr Reardon of Warwick Veterinary Clinic and past president of the Equine Veterinarian Australia (EVA) said they had been campaigning for a contribution to costs involved in attending sick horses including personal protection equipment such as gloves and face masks and the cost of freighting samples to labs for testing.

“All we were asking for was $250,000 nationally to help reimburse us for the cost of personal protective equipment,” he said.

He said the EVA had approached Queensland Minister for Agriculture, Food and Regional Economies Tim Mulherin and Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Food Security John Cobb previously for the funding, with no success.

“We are out there treating the animals, doing the surveillance work and informing people about biosecurity practices and the government just don’t see the need to give us this support,” he said.

“They couldn’t find the $250,000 but now this has happened and they have come up with this $6 million and we are not getting a cent of it.”

Seven people have been diagnosed with the virus since it was discovered in 1994 and four of those died – two of whom were vets.

The $6 million came jointly from the Queensland and NSW governments as a result of the Hendra Taskforce set up in the wake of the latest outbreak in which there have been 10 Hendra horse deaths in a month.

Dr Reardon said the costs of personal protective equipment had to be passed on to practitioners and horse owners and could act as a deterrent for people to call in vets, with weekend freight costing up to $300.

“We might have a horse who needs surgery but we can’t operate on it until the tests come back negative,” he said.

“And that may be on a Friday afternoon or Saturday.”

He was supportive of money going towards much needed Hendra research and hoped it would result in the vaccine becoming available as soon as possible, but said veterinarians needed a share of that in order to protect themselves and deliver the service to the community.

Mr Reardon said veterinarians and horse owners needed to remain “aware but not alarmed” after the virus was discovered in an animal other than a flying fox or horse for the first time, this week.

He said while the discovery was tragic for the family who own the dog and he sympathised with them, he hoped it would shed more light on the virus.

Dusty the two year-old kelpie belonging to the Mount Alford family – who had three horses diagnosed with the virus – had not been put down yesterday with the owner Neil Fearon vowing not to euthanise the pet despite fears for his child’s health.

Mr Fearon told the ABC Dusty had slept the same bed as his 11-year-old son.

Dr Reardon said the development showed how important good hygiene was with all animals, even family pets.

“People should be washing their hands after handling them and not letting them lick their faces – and that goes for preventing all things including flat worms etc,” he said.

He said when it came to Hendra the emphasis should be on good biosecurity practices such as not feeding horses under trees and washing hands and equipment after dealing with animals, more so than how to deal with flying foxes which transfer it to horses, which is then believed to transfer to humans.

Southern Downs Regional Council (SDRC) Mayor Ron Bellingham said there were no immediate plans to apply for a flying fox mitigation permit from the Department of Environment and Resources (DERM) after the permit period was extended from six months to three years over the weekend.

Flying fox colonies have set up their roosts throughout Warwick with the biggest near the Warwick State High Agriculture Campus.

“We are still investigating the terms of the permit, but it appears at first glance that the same stringent protection criteria will need to be met under this longer-term permit as under the six-month permit,” Cr Bellingham said.

“The Minister states that they are not watering down the existing rigorous requirements for protecting flying foxes or justifying the dispersal of flying foxes.

He said there appeared to be an extensive range of requirements council would have to satisfy before it would be able to act in anyway to disperse flying fox colonies.


Hendra information night

  • Monday August 1
  • 6.30pm-9pm
  • Warwick Golf Club, Hawker Rd Warwick
  • RSVP to Warwick Veterinary Clinic on 4661 1105

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