Vaccinate Australian Horses Against Hendra Virus Now

Vaccinate Australian Horses Against Hendra Virus Now

Scientists believe hendra is transmitted to horses from flying foxes, a type of fruit bat that frequents Australia.

The New South Wales, Australia, Department of Primary Industries is encouraging horse owners to vaccinate their horses against hendra virus as the winter months approach in the Southern Hemisphere.

Ian Roth, the DPI’s chief veterinary officer, said vaccination is the single most effective way of protecting people and their horses from the deadly hendra virus.

"The colder months historically see an increased infection rate in horses, so it is imperative that horse owners take all the steps they possibly can to reduce the chances of their horses becoming infected with the hendra virus," Roth said.

He noted that, in addition to being vaccinated, horses should be kept away from flowering and fruiting trees that are attractive to bats.

"Any fruit lying underneath trees should be picked up and disposed of before the horses are returned to the paddock," Roth said. "Do not place feed and water under trees and cover feed and water containers with a shelter so they cannot be contaminated from above.

"If you suspect your horse has hendra virus, keep everyone away from the horse and call your private veterinarian immediately,” he added. "If your vet is unavailable you can call a District Veterinarian with the LLS or the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.”

Finally, Roth stressed that people in contact with horses need to practice good biosecurity and personal hygiene measures even if a horse is vaccinated against hendra virus.

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.

Scientists believe the virus is transmitted to horses from flying foxes, a type of fruit bat that frequents Australia, but the exact method of transmission remains unclear.

The zoonotic disease is transmissible to humans and has killed four people since it was first discovered, including an equine veterinarian who contracted the virus after treating an affected foal in 2009.

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