AVA: Hendra Virus in South Australia No Surprise to Vets

AVA: Hendra Virus in South Australia No Surprise to Vets

The AVA says that although the hendra vaccine significantly decreases the risk of exposure to the virus for horse owners, handlers, and veterinarians, precautions still need to be taken.

The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) is not surprised by the discovery of the hendra virus in flying foxes in South Australia, and is stressing the need for horse owners across the country to have their horses vaccinated.

Previously the virus had only been found in Queensland and New South Wales. The virus has not been detected in any other species, including horses, in South Australia.

AVA National President Ben Gardiner, BVSc, CMAVA, said that no state or territory is immune from the deadly virus.

"Anywhere there are flying foxes there is the potential for the hendra virus to emerge and infect horses and people," he said. "Antibodies have been found in flying fox populations around Australia but this is the first time the actual virus has been found in flying fox tissue in South Australia. This means the bats had an active infection rather than exposure to the hendra virus. So it's just a matter of time before there would be a case.

"This latest discovery is a timely reminder to horse owners who have not yet had their horses vaccinated to take action, no matter where they are located," Gardiner said.

The AVA says that although the vaccine significantly decreases the risk of exposure to the hendra virus for horse owners, handlers, and veterinarians, precautions still need to be taken.

"Anyone handling a sick horse should continue to follow infection control procedures such as wearing personal protective equipment, quarantining sick horses, and following good hygiene practices such as washing hands thoroughly in soapy water," Gardiner stressed.

The vaccine was made available to all of Australia late last year. Horse owners are advised to contact their veterinarian to schedule a vaccine appointment or if they are worried about their horse's health.

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