The Australian Veterinary Association is not surprised by the discovery of the Hendra virus in flying foxes in South Australia.
It stressed the need for horse owners across the country to have their horses inoculated using the new vaccine.
The AVA’s national president, Dr Ben Gardiner, said no state or territory was immune from the deadly virus.
“Anywhere there are flying foxes there is the potential for the Hendra virus to emerge and infect horses and people.
“Antibodies have been found in flying fox populations around Australia but this is the first time the actual virus has been found in flying fox tissue in South Australia.
“This means the bats had an active infection rather than exposure to the Hendra virus. So it’s just a matter of time before there would be a case.
“This latest discovery is a timely reminder to horse owners who have not yet had their horses vaccinated to take action, no matter where they are located,” Gardiner said.
The association said although the vaccine significantly decreased the risk of exposure to the Hendra virus for horse owners, handlers and veterinarians, precautions still needed 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 such as washing hands thoroughly in soapy water,” Gardener said.
The vaccine was made available to all of Australia late last year. Horse owners should contact their vet to schedule a vaccine appointment or if they are worried about the health of their horse.