August 20, 2013
With three Hendra virus outbreaks confirmed in the Gold Coast hinterland and northern New South Wales, horse owners are urged to be particularly vigilant.
Victoria’s Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Roger Paskin said that these recent cases in Queensland and northern New South Wales have given rise to a heightened awareness of this disease, which was first diagnosed in Queensland in 1994.
“Over 70 horses have died from, or been euthanased as a result of Hendra virus, which is transmitted to horses by some species of fruit bat,” Dr Paskin said.
“This transmission occurs in a unique ecological situation involving tropical environments and very large and dense populations of certain bat species, in particular the black flying fox, sharing intimate contact with horses.
“These conditions do not exist in Victoria. Importantly the black flying fox is not known to be present in Victoria.
“On-going surveillance by the Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) continues to show that no natural cases of Hendra have occurred in Victoria.
“A ‘home-grown’ case of Hendra in Victoria is regarded as highly unlikely.”
Dr Paskin said that almost all diagnoses of the virus have been on the properties where the horses were infected and no cases of Hendra have been transported to locations outside the states of Queensland and New South Wales.
“The most plausible reason of any future case of Hendra in Victoria is from a horse transported from northern NSW and Queensland,” he said.
“A vaccine against Hendra virus is currently available in limited quantities through specially accredited veterinarians.”
Horse owners moving horses to Queensland or northern New South Wales should consider vaccination, as well as horses from these areas that are to be introduced to Victoria.
Hendra virus can cause a range of clinical signs in horses and should be considered where there is an acute onset of clinical signs associated with either respiratory and/or neurological signs.
Dr Paskin said that it can take anywhere from five to 16 days for symptoms to appear once the horse has the virus.
“If a horse recently arrived from Queensland or northern New South Wales suffers acute and serious illness, infection with Hendra should be considered a possibility, regardless of whether the horse has been vaccinated or not, and a veterinarian should be contacted immediately,” he said.