Gympie strapper Karissa Scowcroft will keep an extra close eye on her charges, after Hendra virus was confirmed on a Tewantin property.
Gympie strapper Karissa Scowcroft will keep an extra close eye on her charges, after Hendra virus was confirmed on a Tewantin property. Renee Pilcher

Concerns as Hendra confirmed

GYMPIE racehorse trainer Desiree Gill was “taking full precautions” to protect her staff and horses, after a case of the potentially lethal, bat-borne Hendra virus on a property at Tewantin was confirmed this week.

The confirmation of the serious but rare disease in the gelding, and subsequent quarantining of the property, follows uncomfortably close on the heels of the Gympie Show, where hundreds of horses and ponies converged from all over Queensland and New South Wales

The showgrounds are also the home of the Gympie Turf Club.

Ms Gill said all her stable areas were “scrubbed out and disinfected from head to toe” in readiness for her horses’ return to their home grounds, as a routine measure.

But she has now further stepped up vigilance, with horses’ temperatures taken every afternoon and their health status monitored closely.

“I am concerned,” she told The Gympie Times yesterday. “The amount of horse traffic through here from a wide range of areas, and Gympie racehorses coming back from a wide range of areas…

“The virus has a long incubation… long before any signs are showing.

“It could spread before people realise.”

Ms Gill would like to see more government funding on research into the disease, but would not like to see a “panic vaccine” for horses rushed through without thorough testing.

Of more concern, she says, is the fact that four of seven people who have contracted the virus in Queensland have died.

“Something definitely needs to be done, it’s becoming a once a year occurrence,” she said.

“We’re very lucky, we don’t have any (fruit bats roosting) at the showgrounds or at home. (But) this disease is actually killing human beings. That is the number one priority - to make sure no more vets or horse handlers die from this.”

Ben Poole, manager of the Cooroora Veterinary Clinic at Cooroy, said the vet who was exposed to the virus, did everything he could to avoid being infected, had made a risk assessment, and acted quickly to report the incident.

He said the vet had worn a protective gown, gloves, mask and boots, and had not intubated the horse.

Queensland Health is testing nine people, including the vet and a young girl, who were in contact with the infected animal.

Queensland chief health officer Jeannette Young said the virus can incubate for up to 21 days, and the nine will be re-tested at 42 days post initial exposure.

She said no one at this point was showing any symptoms.

“We know very little about this virus - the one thing we do know, is it is very hard to catch,” she said.

Chief veterinary officer Ron Glanville said it was hoped the virus had not spread to other horses.

“The infected horse hadn’t been off the property this year,” he said.

A second horse from the property is currently healthy.

Gympie Times


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