NSW DPI regional veterinary officer Paul Freeman says while the risk of horses contracting Hendra virus remains low, horse owners should take all necessary precautions to avoid the disease spreading.
NSW DPI regional veterinary officer Paul Freeman says while the risk of horses contracting Hendra virus remains low, horse owners should take all necessary precautions to avoid the disease spreading.

Call for vigilance in virus crisis

ANIMAL and health experts are warning horse owners to take precautions in light of last week’s case of the Hendra virus at Wollongbar.

The warning comes as a fifth case of the virus was confirmed on a property in Queensland yesterday, with fears as many as seven more horses may be at risk.

Industry and Investment vet officer Paul Freeman said the risk of the disease spreading from bats to horses was low, and the spread from horses to humans even lower.

He said when humans contracted Hendra virus, however, it was often fatal.

With bat populations coming into closer contact with humans and their horses, the overall risk for the spread of the disease was increasing, while the number of cases remained steady, he said.

Fever and rapid deterioration of condition with signs of nerve damage, such as difficulty standing or wobbly legs, were classic signs of Hendra.

Other symptoms include respiratory difficulties – including water on the lungs and foaming nostrils – and the appearance of blindness.

The virus attacks the blood vessels in the brain and lungs.

And while the virus can be deadly, there is no risk of Hendra spreading directly from bats to humans.

The way the virus spreads is not fully understood, but it is thought it spreads to horses through contact with bat urine or faeces.

Yesterday, it was confirmed a fourth case of the virus in a horse located in Queensland – the third horse from a property at Mt Alford, near Boonah in south-east Queensland – while the Wollongbar property will remain under quarantine for 32 days.

A special meeting to provide horse owners with information about the threat of the virus will be held tomorrow at Industry and Investment, Wollongbar, in the main conference room from 6pm.

Hendra is a notifiable disease and anyone who suspects their horses may have it should telephone the Emergency Disease Watch hotline on 1800 675 888.

REDUCE THE RISK OF HENDRA

Cover any cuts or abrasions on exposed skin before handling horses and wash your hands well with soap and water, especially after handling your horse’s mouth or nose (eg fitting or removing a bridle) and before eating or touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Don’t kiss horses on the muzzle (especially if the horse is sick).

Use personal protective equipment to protect yourself from the body fluids of horses.

Place feed and water containers under cover to reduce risk of exposure to flying foxes.

Don’t put feed and water under trees, especially fruit trees.



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