Hendravirus in Horses


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Hendravirus?  Isn’t that the disease in NSW and Queensland that has killed both horses and people?

It is.

In recent months the warmer states have had some frightful experiences with the deadly Hendra virus.  Hendra affects horses and unfortunately can be spread to humans.  People including vets have died from Hendra in the past few years.  The virus is transmitted via the fruit bat (which is it’s natural host) and can be passed on through contaminated faeces, urine and other bodily fluids.  The virus can also be transmitted from horse to horse, and from horse to human through close contact with respiratory secretions (snotty noses….sneezing etc).  The stats are terrifying; since it’s discovery in 1994, Hendra has been responsible for more than 70 horse deaths and 4 human deaths, with another 7 people contracting the virus.

What does a horse with Hendra virus look like?

Generally a horse that has contracted Hendra will be acutely sick and have a high fever.  He/she may also have a high heart rate, breathing difficulties, neurological signs, wobbliness, altered consciousness, head tilt, muscle twitching, nasal discharge (initially clear then frothy white or blood tinged) and weakness which can progress to collapse and loss of consciousness.  It’s not a nice disease……

Isn’t Hendra just in the northern states?

Unfortunately Hendra has been isolated in the flying fox population in the Adelaide parklands.

Flying Foxes

I’m terrified now!

Ok so here’s the good news.  In recent months (Nov 1st to be exact), Pfizer Animal health released a vaccine to assist in protecting horses against Hendra (and thereby protecting the humans they contact aswell).  The vaccination protocol is very strict and consists of 2 vaccinations EXACTLY 21 days apart.  This protocol must be followed for the horse to be certified as vaccinated.  As far as we know at this stage the vaccines will be given annually after this initial course.  This may change in the coming months as the long term data is discovered and released.  Hendra vaccines can be given to horses as young as 4 months of age and the horses MUST be microchipped (this can be done at the same time).  The vaccine can only be given by a certified veterinarian…..thankfully we have three of those at Strathalbyn

 

Dr Bec at the information evening

On February 20th we held a Hendra virus information night at the Strathalbyn Footy Club.  Equine specialist Allison Domney and Paul Dickson from Pfizer Animal Health presented an informative session with our own Doctors Ross Lockwood, Rebecca Dunn and Melissa Ford all there to help with any tricky questions.  Around 50 locals came away all the more knowledgeable on this deadly virus.

So how do I find out about getting my horse vaccinated?

If you are interested in any further information, would like to know more about vaccination or simply discuss how “at risk” you and your horses may be, please don’t hesitate to drop into the Strath clinic or give one of our friendly staff a buzz.  We have vaccines on hand and have started vaccinating the local horses.

 

Let's prevent the spread of Hendra virus!

 


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