AHIC Hendra Virus Update

So far this year there have been 6 confirmed cases in Queensland and New South Wales. The last 3 have been diagnosed during the last few days and another horse has yet to be excluded.

There has been limited information about the clinical background but one case at least was seen as a “sick” horse.

There has also been limited detail about the management of the horses but in the latest confirmed case there is so far no reported association with flying foxes.

Horse owners with sick horses where there is a concern that Hendra virus may be involved should handlethehorseaslittleaspossible,preferablyusingdisposablegloves. Thesickhorseshouldbe isolated and a veterinarian called.

In the cases this year it appears that there has been excellent use of appropriate protective clothing by veterinarians which is good to hear. Whilst transmission of Hendra virus from horses to humans is rare if it occurs, the consequences may be fatal. Using disposable plastic gloves with minimal contact to move a sick horse into isolation should be a very low risk issue.

Horse owners should remember sensible management practices as suggested below.

There is an excellent vaccine available for horse owners in higher Hendra virus risk areas to consider using. This decision should be made in consultation with their local veterinarian.

It would be helpful if the background details of the 6 cases seen this year were made available as it may assist other horse owners in making a more appropriate risk analysis for their own circumstances. There is still much uncertainty in regard to Hendra cases so any additional information can only be of benefit. Accordingly AHIC is talking with the various Ministers and CVO’s in an endeavour to get more background information about the current Hendra cases released to assist horse owners to use this information to make informed decisions. We will advise the outcome of these discussions asap.

A Hendra Virus Information for Horse Owners Pack is available on the Biosecurity Queensland website.

Steps to reducing the risk of Hendra virus:
Talk to your veterinarian about the option of vaccinating your horse against Hendra virus.
Horse feed and water containers should be removed from under trees. If possible, place feed and water containers under a shelter.
Owners should inspect and identify flowering/fruiting trees on their property. Horses should be removed from paddocks where flowering/fruiting trees are attracting flying foxes. Horses should be returned only after the trees have stopped flowering/fruiting and the flying foxes have gone. If horses cannot be removed from the paddock, consider fencing (temporary or permanent) to restrict access to flowering/ fruiting trees. Clean up any fruit debris underneath the trees before returning horses.
If it is not possible to remove horses from paddocks, try to temporarily remove your horses during times of peak flying fox activity (usually at dusk and during the night).
Ensure that sick horses are isolated from other horses, people and animals until a veterinarian’s opinion is obtained.

If there is more than one horse on your property, handle unaffected horses first and then only handle sick horses after taking appropriate precautions.
Make sure gear exposed to any body fluids from horses is cleaned and disinfected before it is used on another horse. This includes halters, lead ropes and twitches. Talk to your veterinarian about which cleaning agents and disinfectants to use.

When cleaning contaminated equipment from a sick horse, wear gloves, cover any cuts or grazes and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
It is essential that horse owners practise good biosecurity and not travel with, work on or take sick horses to other properties or equestrian events.

Do not allow visiting horse practitioners (e.g. farriers) to work on sick horses. Seek veterinary advice before bringing any sick horse onto your property.

For more information on Hendra virus, visit www.qldhorsecouncil.com or www.biosecurity,qld.gov.au or call 13 25 23. For information on the vaccine, visit www.health4horses.com.au

Australian Horse Industry Council P. O. Box 802
Geelong Vic 3220
Ph: (03) 5222 6650

Fax: (03) 5229 8244
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Web: www.horsecouncil.org.au

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