New Hendra Case Confirmed near Ingham, Qld.

Biosecurity Queensland is managing a new hendra virus case near Ingham, Queensland, Australia, after a positive test result was received late last night (Nov. 4).

Queensland Chief Veterinary Officer Rick Symons, BVSc, MBA, PhD, said the horse was first noticed to be sick by its owner on Wednesday (Oct. 31) afternoon.

Symons said a private veterinarian treated the horse as a potential hendra virus case due to the sudden onset of signs including neurological signs, lethargy, and a lack of appetite. By Thursday (Nov. 1) afternoon the horse's condition had deteriorated and a decision was made to euthanize the horse, he said.

"Biosecurity Queensland officers were on site this morning and have quarantined the property," Symons relayed. "They will also undertake tracing as a priority to assess whether any other animals were at risk of being exposed to the virus. Restrictions apply to moving horses and horse materials on and off the infected property, and the property will be quarantined for at least one month."

Queensland Health's Public Health experts are assessing the situation today (Nov. 5) to determine if any humans had contact with the infected horse.

Queensland's Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young, MB, BS, FRACMA, FFPH, reassured the community that transmission of the virus required close contact with bodily fluids of an infected horse.

"Queensland Health staff will continue to undertake contact tracing work to ensure all people potentially exposed to the infected horse have been identified," Young said. "Queensland Health stands ready to provide any assistance, counseling, information, testing, or treatment that may be required."

Symons said this latest case was the eighth hendra virus incident in Queensland this year and the second in Ingham.

"This year we have had cases in Townsville, Cairns, Ingham, Mackay, Port Douglas, and two cases in Rockhampton," Symons said. "All of these cases have been finalized and quarantines lifted.

"Horse owners need to remain vigilant in taking steps to reduce the risk of infection as hendra virus can occur year round," he continued. "If a horse becomes sick, owners should contact their veterinarian immediately as happened in this case."

On Nov. 1, the first equine hendra virus vaccine was launched in Australia. Nonetheless, Symons reminded that no vaccine is a guarantee against disease contraction.

"The release of the hendra virus vaccine provides another option for the horse industry in the fight against this virus and horse owners should discuss with their veterinarian whether vaccinating their horses is appropriate," Symons said. "However it is important to remember no vaccine is 100% effective and people in contact with horses need to continue to practice good biosecurity and personal hygiene measures even if horses are vaccinated."


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