Vet collects blood samples to be tested for Hendra Virus in northern NSW.
Vet collects blood samples to be tested for Hendra Virus in northern NSW. Rob Wright

Experts calm hysteria over Hendra

AUTHORITIES have moved to quell public panic following the second case of a horse death from the Hendra virus on the North Coast.

A second horse died from Hendra virus at Macksville on Wednesday this week following the death of a horse at Wollongbar last Friday.

The Department of Primary Industries regional veterinary officer, Paul Freeman, said the concern was an understandable over-reaction from uninformed people.

“At the end of the day we have two isolated events in NSW both involving single horses,” he said.

“There have been no movements off those properties and there are no neighbours at risk.”

Dr Freeman said the Hendra virus was not highly contagious and horse to horse transmissions were very rare. He does not expect any more cases in the short term and the current controls (quarantining the properties, controlling movements on and off those properties and testing) are working very well.

Scientists in Queensland have identified a three-fold rise in the shedding of the virus by flying foxes which is attributed to stress, possibly to the effects on habitat and food from the Queensland floods.

“There may very well be something going on with the flying foxes but until those questions are answered we won't know.

“There is no silver bullet, a vaccine being developed by the CSIRO is promising but there has to be commercial drivers for that.”

Responding to the cancellation of a horse sale in Lismore this week, Dr Freeman reiterated the department's advice that there was no reason to restrict horse movements or avoid horse meetings or events.

Stock and station agent Kevin Cocciola said the sale had been postponed until August after buyers from Queensland and northern NSW pulled out because of fears surrounding the virus.

Meanwhile, Clarence Valley Jockey Club chief executive officer Brad de Martino Rosaroll said next week's Grafton Cup will not be affected by the outbreaks.

Comprehensive information is available on the DPI’s website, www.dpi.nsw.gov.au.

 

HENDRA FACTS

  • Seven horses, confirmed to have Hendra, have died or been put down since June 20: five in southern Queensland and two in northern NSW.
  • Eleven properties are now under quarantine: nine in Queensland, two in NSW.
  • A total of 32 people are believed to have been exposed to Hendra-infected horses: 17 in Queensland and 15 in NSW. All now face three rounds of tests before the all-clear can be given. Final results won't be known for weeks.
  • More than 30 other horses across the affected properties are being tested.


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