Biosecurity staff test a horse for Hendra virus.
Biosecurity staff test a horse for Hendra virus. Alistair Brightman

Hendra vaccine released

NORTHERN Rivers horse owners may soon no longer fear the deadly Hendra virus with the announcement today of a new vaccine to prevent horses from becoming infected with the disease

CSIRO scientists have been saying for months they were close to a vaccine for the disease, which is capable of jumping from horses to humans.

Now Pfizer Animal Health, working with the CSIRO's Australian Animal Health Laboratory and with input from several United States organisations, has announced it has found it.

"This vaccine (called Equivac HeV) significantly decreases the risk of exposure to Hendra virus for horse owners, handlers and veterinarians. For that reason, the Australian Veterinary Association recommends that all horses be vaccinated against the Hendra virus," Australian Veterinary Association president Dr Ben Gardiner has said in a statement about the discovery.

Graphic supplied by Pfizer Animal Health
Graphic supplied by Pfizer Animal Health

"The vaccine will also help to protect the health of horses and is a major win for anyone working in the equine industry, including veterinarians. We encourage all horse owners to contact their veterinarian to schedule an Equivac HeV vaccine appointment."

The creation of a vaccine will be welcome news to Northern Rivers horse owners after the virus, which had previously been restricted to Queensland, jumped the border last year and killed several horses on the NSW North Coast, starting with a horse at a Wollongbar property.

The virus has also previously proven fatal to humans, who are able to contract it through prolonged exposure to infected horses.

The new vaccine has been cleared for use by accredited veterinarians from today.

However, Dr Gardiner said it remained important for horse owners to continue taking precautions against the disease.

"Although Equivac HeV will provide reassurance for Australians in contact with horses, owners should still be conscious of flying fox activity in their area," he said.

"Anyone handling a sick horse should also continue to take important infection control precautions such as wearing personal protective equipment, quarantining sick horses and following good hygiene practices as a matter of routine."



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