The hendra information night at Mullumbimby Ex-Services Club.
The hendra information night at Mullumbimby Ex-Services Club. Digby Hildreth

Big turnout for hendra meeting

CONCERN at the spike in hendra virus in the region brought 70 horse enthusiasts and members of the public to an information meeting in Mullumbimby this week.

Meagan Lewis came from Pottsville to learn about the disease, which has killed five horses in NSW and 10 in Queensland since late June.

Ms Lewis has a foal, a mare and a gelding on her property at Cudgera Creek.

Her neighbour's children are members of a pony club and have two horses and there are six horses across the road.

“I desperately don't want to lose my horses, but it's my family that I'm really concerned about,” she said.

Paul Freeman, the Department of Primary Industries' regional veterinary officer, admitted the department didn't know what was behind the sudden “atypical” increase in the disease.

But he said it had only affected humans who were working closely with sick horses and had been exposed to bodily fluids such as saliva.

While the virus hadn't changed, the activity of the disease in horses in the latest outbreak differed to earlier episodes, he said, with more rapid onset and death, which was a cause for concern.

Symptoms were slightly different too, from the earlier respiratory problems to more “nerve involvement”, including twitching and head turning.

Greg Bell, a director at the North Coast Public Health Unit, said there was no known risk to humans from flying foxes or other animals.

“Nearly 130 bat handlers, some of whom had been bitten, were studied and showed no presence of antibodies to the hendra virus,” Dr Bell said.



People with horses should:

  • Prevent contact between horses and feed and flying foxes; cover feed containers.
  • When working closely with a horse, wear gloves, a face shield and a mask; wash hands afterwards.
  • If you see a sick horse, stay five metres away and ring a vet.

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