Hendra Vaccine Now Available in Australia's Northern Territory

Hendra Vaccine Now Available in Australia's Northern Territory

Horse owners are advised to contact their veterinarian to schedule a vaccine appointment.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

The equine hendra vaccine, which was released in high risk areas across Queensland and New South Wales beginning Nov. 1, is now available to horse owners in other Australian areas, including the Northern Territory (NT).

The Australian Veterinary Association's (AVA) President, Alex Burleigh, BVSc hons, said the arrival of the vaccine in the NT was welcome news.

"With a high population of both flying foxes and horses in the NT we are urging all horse owners to get their horses vaccinated, especially considering more than 75% of flying foxes in the Territory are exposed to the disease at certain times of the year," he explained. "Although there have never been any confirmed cases of hendra in the NT, with the dense population of flying foxes present--particularly in northern areas such as Darwin and Katherine--our view has always been that it would be just a matter of time before there would be a case."

The AVA says that although the vaccine will significantly decrease 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," Burleigh said.

The vaccine became available in the Northern Territory Friday (Nov. 23) and horse owners are advised to contact their veterinarian to schedule a vaccine appointment.

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 AVA suggested that horse owners can reduce the risks of hendra virus in their horses by fencing off trees attractive to flying foxes, covering horse feed and water containers, and not feeding horses food that could appeal to flying foxes, such as fruit and vegetables.

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