July 8, 2013
A third horse has died from Hendra virus at a property west of Kempsey, on the NSW mid north coast, NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) confirmed today.
NSW Acting Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Therese Wright, said a private veterinarian took a swab from the dead horse and sent the sample to DPI’s Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute for laboratory analysis – results confirmed the Hendra virus today.
“The horse was noticeably ill on Thursday and was showing neurological changes, including loss of balance and staggering,” Dr Wright said.
“The property has now been quarantined and a second horse on the property has been vaccinated, sampled and will continue to be monitored by a Livestock Health and Pest Authority (LHPA) veterinarian.
“DPI, LHPA and NSW Health are now working with the property owners.”
Dr Wright said the 18 year old mare was unfortunately not vaccinated against the Hendra virus.
“It’s critical horse owners maintain vigilance against this virus,” Dr Wright said.
“Horse owners need to discuss the use of the Hendra vaccine with their private veterinarian.
“Vaccination is the single most effective way of reducing the risk of Hendra virus infection in horses.
“People should also keep horses away from fruiting and flowering trees that might attract fruit bats or other areas where bats are known to congregate.”
Director of Communicable Diseases, NSW Health, Vicky Sheppeard said the local public health unit had identified three human contacts of the affected horse and found that their risk was negligible to low. The contacts have been provided with advice and are to follow up with their general practitioners.
Dr Sheppeard urged people who are in contact with sick horses to take precautions to protect themselves from Hendra and other viruses.
“All people, including owners and vets, who handle sick horses should always wear gloves, protective clothing and eye protection as a precaution. Horse blood, nose and lung secretions, and urine can all carry the virus and put people who come in contact with them at risk. Human treatments for Hendra remain experimental, so avoidance of exposure to the virus is the safest course of action,” Dr Sheppeard said.
Hendra virus is a notifiable disease – if you suspect the presence of this disease in horses, you must report it. Call Emergency Disease Watch Hotline – 1800 675 888.