Australian Vets Call for Hendra Research Funds

Research to help fight the deadly Hendra virus is a matter of urgency, said the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA). Alister Rodgers, BVSc, died earlier this month after contracting the virus while treating a sick foal.

"Funds are urgently needed from federal and state governments to target every stage of the disease and prevent further loss of life," said Australian Veterinary Association President Mark Lawrie, BVSc, MACVSc (Animal Welfare), GAICD, CMAVA.

"We simply can't wait before taking action," Lawrie said. "Serious money is needed for research, as well as getting the message out to horse owners, workers and veterinarians about how to lower the risk of catching the virus. An effective horse vaccine would prevent the virus from infecting other horses and people.

"A rapid on-site test for use in stalls and paddocks will help us know more quickly whether extra precautions need to be taken against Hendra. Besides vaccines and testing, we need look at how the virus is transmitted and find ways to effectively treat people who have been exposed to the virus. This disease is here to stay. We can’t afford any more tragic deaths," Lawrie said.

Rodgers was the second Queensland vet within a year to die from Hendra virus.

A memorial Hendra virus research assistance fund has been set up in Rodgers' honor by the University of Queensland, where Rodgers trained.

"The fund will raise money for research into Hendra virus and shows the commitment of the profession and the Rodgers family to finding answers," Lawrie said. "The AVA supports the memorial fund, but more will be needed to make a real difference. Serious government funding is needed to combat the disease. We want ongoing investment at government level to help us prevent any further deaths."

Donations to the Alister Rodgers Memorial Hendra Virus Research Assistance Fund can be made by contacting the University Advancement Office at the University of Queensland, on (07) 3346 3900.

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