102 Reasons to Vaccinate Horses Against Hendra Virus

102 Reasons to Vaccinate Horses Against Hendra Virus

From 1994, when the virus was first identified, to August 2017, there have been 60 known Hendra incidents in Australia resulting in the death of 102 horses.

Photo: Courtesy CSIRO Livestock Industries' Australian Animal Health Laboratory

Equine Veterinarians Australia (EVA) is urging owners in that country to vaccinate their horses against the deadly Hendra virus following three new confirmed cases in just four weeks.

Ben Poole, BVSc, MANZCVS, EVA president, said it’s critical that horses located in and around high-risk Hendra areas are vaccinated.

“Another three horses in (New South Wales) have died from this preventable disease, which poses serious health risks not just to horses, but humans as well,” Poole said.

From 1994, when the virus was first identified, to August 2017, there have been 60 known Hendra incidents resulting in the death of 102 horses. During this period, Queensland has recorded 40 incidents and NSW has had 20. Hendra has not been confirmed outside Australia.

“Every one of these horses that has died because of Hendra represents one more compelling reason for horse owners to vaccinate their horses,” Poole said. “The risk this disease poses to human health is also very real and it is important that the equine community remains vigilant in protecting horses and people from Hendra.”

Since the first outbreak was recorded in 1994, there have been seven confirmed cases in people, all of whom had significant contact with horse body fluids. Of those who tested positive for Hendra, four died from the disease, including two veterinarians.

Poole said the vaccine, introduced in 2012, is the most effective way to minimize the risk of Hendra virus. The vaccine is fully registered by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority.

“Vaccination is the most effective way to ensure high standards of horse health and welfare while also protecting veterinarians, horse handlers, and owners from contracting this deadly virus,” he said.

Because Hendra’s clinical signs can be extremely variable, it’s not possible to definitively diagnose the disease without laboratory testing, he added.

“When your horse is vaccinated against Hendra virus, the probability of your horse having the disease is extremely low and, therefore, is more likely to receive timely and appropriate therapies.

“We need to remember that right across the country, there are thousands of equine events every year,” Poole stressed. “These events bring together a large number of horses from a wide range of geographical locations, and this compounds the risks associated with Hendra virus infection if horses have not been vaccinated.”

Australian horse owners should contact their local veterinarian for more information about the Hendra virus vaccination.

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