Hendra tests show spread
HORSE racing officials are following the example of Kenilworth district breeder Stan Johnston in attempting to control the threat of Hendra virus by eliminating fruit bat food sources on his property.
AAP reported yesterday that New South Wales racing officials are trimming palm trees at some racecourses to stem the spread of the sometimes deadly disease.
Officials said the trimming was aimed at discouraging fruit bats from feeding in areas where horses graze.
Mr Johnston said last week he had cleared all fruit trees on his property.
“We haven’t seen fruit bats, but we don’t want to,” he said.
Meanwhile, with 12 horses having died in New South Wales and Queensland in recent weeks, one bat expert and conservationist reportedly blamed horse owners, saying they needed better hygiene and better horse management.
A Hervey Bay horse owner with recent first-hand experience disagreed, saying horse owners are effectively playing Russian roulette every time a flying fox crosses their property.
“I lay in bed every night listening to the flying foxes come over, and wonder if we will get Hendra.”
His nightmare was confirmed last week when his seven-year-old mare was put down after contracting the virus.
It was the first case of Hendra positively identified in Hervey Bay and is the closest case so far to the Gympie Region.
“She was lying down and couldn’t get up, so we called in the vet,” he said.
“Two hours later, she was dead.”
The property was immediately placed in quarantine as Biosecurity Queensland staff in hazmat suits set up an exclusion zone and conducted tests on the surviving pony.
The Department of Environment and Resource Management confirmed the test results on Saturday, the property owner said.
He said that while his pony would not be given the all-clear for several weeks, it appeared to be in good health yesterday.
The risk of the disease spreading was low as there were no other horses around his property.
A paddock and a vehicle are to be sprayed with disinfectant to remove potential contamination, and the family also plans to follow Mr Johnston’s example by removing fruit trees on the property.
Three of the property’s residents are also being tested but the man did not believe they were in imminent danger.