'Playing foxy' on Hendra virus
LOCAL health and wildlife experts played down fears of a potential Hendra virus outbreak yesterday after North Coast flying foxes tested positive to the deadly disease.
The Hendra virus, which has claimed the lives of four Australians, was detected in the antibodies of flying foxes in Coffs Harbour last week.
However, according to Northern Rivers Wild- life Care flying fox co-ordinator Cheryl Cochrane, it 'remains to be seen' if and how flying foxes could transmit the virus to horses.
“We know that flying foxes can transmit the virus to other animals, but not horses at this stage,” she said.
Veterinarian Liz Brown, from the Northern Rivers Vet Service in Casino, was alert but not alarmed by the news.
“Flying foxes are the natural hosts for the virus. Hendra has been found in the placental fluids, urine and droppings,” Dr Brown said.
“My advice, in a paddock situation, don't have feed bowls under trees, move them out into the open and cover them up.”
The North Coast Area Health Service's director of public health, Paul Corben, said local health authorities were 'not overly concerned' about the news.
He said the number of horses on the North Coast that had contracted the virus was 'extremely low', and confirmed no human in the area had contracted the virus.
There is a response protocol existing in case someone did present with horse flu symptoms, Mr Corben said.
“North Coast Area Health Service is working closely with the Department of Primary Industries to combat a potential human outbreak,” he said.
Ms Cochrane is worried that a public knee-jerk reaction could further threaten the dwindling numbers of local flying foxes.
Ms Cochrane was vehemently opposed to Queensland Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle's recent request in Parliament calling on the Queensland Government to allow farmers to shoot flying foxes.
“If you see a lone, still flying fox, please contact us immediately. It's birthing season. It might have a baby that needs rescuing,” she said.ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT HENDRA VIRUS? Phone 6624 3266 or SMS 0428 264 948