Hendra Virus: Statement Regarding Vet's Death

The following is a statement released by the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA):

Veterinarians around Australia are mourning the death of Alister Rodgers from a Hendra virus infection, and urge governments to immediately increase investment in fighting the deadly disease.

"Just 12 months ago we lost friend and colleague Ben Cunneen to Hendra virus, a disease he contracted treating a sick horse, just as Alister did," said Mark Lawrie, BVSc, MACVSc (Animal Welfare), GAICD, CMAVA, president of the AVA. "It is absolutely devastating to lose another vet so soon, and we must do everything within our power to stop this from ever happening again.

"All indications are that Hendra is here to stay. It is probable that cases will emerge in states other than Queensland. Governments around Australia need to take this disease seriously right now and invest in measures to address the problem."

The AVA advocates a three-pronged approach to the Hendra response - education and training in preventive measures, research into a human cure, and better funding for government veterinary responses to outbreaks.

"We need some serious funding for education and training for everyone involved with horses, including owners and veterinarians, about how to lower the risk of falling victim to Hendra," Lawrie said. "Even the most stringent preventive measures are not foolproof, however, and it's vital that some progress is made immediately on treating the disease once a person has been exposed. We need a massive research effort into the source of the disease, vaccines, and rapid onsite tests.

"Our third concern is that Australian government veterinary services have been progressively starved of resources over many years. We need access to quick lab results, and enough government vets to respond to outbreaks of disease wherever they are.

"It's likely that with greater awareness of the disease, the number of suspected cases will increase. To avoid any more deaths, we need urgent action in all three areas," Lawrie said.

"We extend the sympathy of veterinarians around the country to Alister's family, friends, and workmates," Lawrie said. "Unfortunately this problem is not going away. We hope that answers can be found so that we never have to mourn the loss of another colleague to Hendra."

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