Hendra virus strikes in NSW for first time in two years

A HORSE has died from hendra virus in Macksville, the first time in two years that the deadly virus has struck in NSW.

The property has been placed in quarantine and another horse is being checked, along with three dogs and two cats.

A spokesperson for the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) said the property owners were not considered at risk.

The deadly virus can be spread from flying foxes to horses and in some cases has passed from horses to humans.

Mullumbimby vet Richard Gregory said there has been a very low uptake of the hendra vaccine.

"I think it would be less than 5% of horse owners in the region," he said. He puts the low vaccine rates down to price and complacency.

"There is a lot of suspicion that it (the vaccine) is not safe because it hasn't been on the market a long time and it didn't go through the regular levels of safety checks before it was released, which is not perfect, but there is also a lot of complacency where people think, 'it won't happen to me'," Mr Gregory said.

There have been eight cases of hendra virus in Queensland horses in the past 12 months, but at this stage there are no other suspected cases in the Northern Rivers.

The last NSW outbreak was in 2011, when 10 horses died on eight properties at Wollongbar, Lismore, Mullumbimby, Ballina and Macksville.

Help with hendra

  • The NSW DPI advises horse owners to take precautions in areas with flying foxes to reduce the risk of their horses becoming infected.
  • Talk with your vet about vaccinating horses.
  • Place feed and water containers under cover.
  • Do not place feed and water under trees, especially trees with fruit.
  • Do not use feed that could attract flying foxes, such as apples, carrots, or molasses.
  • Remove horses from paddocks where fruiting or flowering trees have temporarily attracted flying foxes.
  • If it is not possible to remove the horse from the paddock, tape off the area under the tree.

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