Hong Kong to Accept Horses Vaccinated Against Hendra

Equestrian Australia (EA) announced Aug. 13 that the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department (AFCD) Animal Biosecurity Branch has informed the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry (DAFF) that the AFCD will accept horses vaccinated against hendra virus, according to manufacturer recommendations.

Shipping agents must submit an application for a dispensation to the AFCD via DAFF, a statement on EA's website indicated.

The deadly hendra virus has been known to yield numerous clinical signs in horses including respiratory distress, frothy nasal discharge, elevated body temperature (above 40°C, or 104°F), and elevated heart rate; however, authorities caution that hendra infection does not have specific signs. The virus is transmitted to horses from the flying fox, a type of Australian fruit bat.

Hendra virus is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be transmitted from horses to humans; several humans that contracted the virus from horses have died since hendra was discovered in 1994. The disease has never been diagnosed outside of Australia.

A vaccine against the virus was introduced in Australia on Nov. 1, 2012. Government bodies have since encouraged horse owners to vaccinate their animals against the virus, in addition to taking other steps to reduce virus risk, such as avoiding placing horses' feed and water containers under trees, removing horses from pastures with flowering or fruiting trees that could attract flying foxes, and cleaning up fruit debris under trees before turning horses out in pastures.

On July 30 Equestrian New South Wales, the Australian state's horse sport body, announced a new policy that requires all horses entering Equestrian Australia (EA)/Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) events deemed "hendra vaccinated events" to be vaccinated against hendra virus. The rule will take effect Jan. 1, 2014.

About the Author

Erica Larson, News Editor

Erica Larson, news editor, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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