Vet sheds light on Hendra Virus history on North Coast
WITH his dedicated work on horses exposed to Hendra virus spanning 26 years, North Coast vet Philip Kemsley sheds some fascinating light on the emerging disease.
In 2014, Mr Kemsley co-authored the paper for the Australian Veterinary Journal: 'Clinical review of Hendra virus infection in 11 horses in New South Wales, Australia'.
The research found that in eight of the nine cases in the northeastern region of NSW, infection occurred within two months over the winter of 2011.
"With no exception, the affected horses were kept at pasture on properties visited by flying foxes," the paper stated.
"Of the 11 horses testing positive for Hendra Virus (HeV), five had an association with a fence, with the horses dead or dying on a fence line. In most cases, disease was an acute illness leading to death within 48 hours."
"Hendra virus is a new and emerging disease and we learn something more from every new case that arises," Mr Kemsley said.
"The research work is to unravel what the story is in terms of interface."
The North Coast Local Land Services district vet said the most common signs a horse had contracted Hendra Virus was a neurological, nervous system and respiratory decline.
"The common presenting signs are drooped lips, a struggle breathing and significant disorientation," he said.
"Horses can also be found dying in an unusual place, such as under a fence or in a dam, because they are usually disorientated."
While flying foxes were traced to be the cause of the virus after the first outbreak, Mr Kemsley said breakthrough research conducted several years ago, found it was flying fox urine that was the most potent source of virus.
"Until then we weren't sure," he said.
"In this local area, it's the black flying fox that transmits the virus to horses.
He said, what they did know, was the virus dies extremely quickly in the environment.
"It requires quite damp, humid conditions to survive and the closer the horse is to inhaling the urine, the more the virus is triggered," he said.
"It is fairly a rare event, because it must have all those planets lining up in order to cause a spill over, to horses."
"We haven't had another episode like that within the Hendra stables.
"I've dealt with at least ten cases since the first outbreak and I've only ever seen two incidences of horse to horse spread."