Vet Greg Cavanagh has warned horse owners to be vigilant against hendra virus.
Vet Greg Cavanagh has warned horse owners to be vigilant against hendra virus. Renee Pilcher

Vet cautions against hendra virus after region's floods

GYMPIE vets yesterday urged horse owners to take preventive measures against the deadly hendra virus because of a potential for increased risk of outbreaks following the floods.

The hendra virus occurs naturally in flying foxes, and horses contract it by ingesting feed or water contaminated with flying fox body fluids and excretions.

Flying foxes are more likely to excrete hendra virus if they are stressed, and the loss of food due to the floods can increase stress levels.

The migration of stressed bats to non-flood affected regions could also result in the spread of the virus.

Large animal expert with Gympie Vet Services Greg Cavanagh said the following measures were crucial to reducing hendra virus transmission.

"It is vital that veterinarians and those who work with horses take precautions, such as wearing protective clothing and practising good hygiene," Dr Cavanagh said.

"The recently released hendra horse vaccine is also a significant step towards breaking the cycle of hendra virus transmission.

"Uptake of the vaccine in the Gympie region has not been strong.

In 2011, the same year as the last Queensland floods, the highest number of hendra cases ever was reported.

Previously, there had been 14 instances of hendra virus from 1994 to 2010, all in Queensland.

In 2011 alone, there were 10 incidents in Queensland and eight in NSW.Hendra virus to date has killed 84 horses and has a 57% fatality rate in humans.

 

Signs of hendra virus in horses

  •  Fever
  •  Nasal discharge
  •  Clumsiness or difficulty walking
  •  Muscle twitching
  •  Increased breathing rate
  •  Lack of appetite
  •  Difficulty breathing
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