July 15, 2008

The deadly disease Hendra has claimed the life of a horse in North Queensland, but the case is unrelated to the outbreak near Brisbane.

Biosecurity Queensland said although the case is not related to the recent cases of Hendra virus at a vet practice near Brisbane, it is not cause for alarm. The horse died in the area of Cannonvale over the weekend.

Dr Ron Glanville, Biosecurity Queensland Chief Veterinary Officer, said a local vet reported the horse's unusual symptoms to DPI&F on Friday, with samples sent for priority laboratory testing on Saturday.

"There are more than half a million horses in Queensland and although Hendra cases are still rare, some cases are expected periodically," Dr Glanville said.

"Fortunately, Hendra virus does not spread like equine influenza, and is very difficult to catch.

"The horse at Cannonvale has no connection to the vet practice in Brisbane, and all scientific evidence at the moment points to the timing being a coincidence," Dr Glanville said.

"The recent news coverage of Hendra virus prompted the local Cannonvale vet to call Biosecurity Queensland, and I applaud this foresight," he said.

Dr Glanville said this is not the first time that Queensland has dealt with two unrelated cases of Hendra in the same year. In fact, it has occurred four times previously since 1994.

"Every new case and new piece of information helps to increase our scientific understanding of this rare disease," Dr Glanville said.

Biosecurity Queensland officers are investigating the Cannonvale property this morning. It will be placed under routine quarantine.

Further testing of other horses at the Redlands vet practice is continuing. The latest round of tests have been negative for Hendra virus and there have been no further signs of illness.

Hendra is a rare virus that affects horses. This is only the 11th known incident in Queensland.