August 25, 2008

The Queensland government will hold an inquiry into the handling of the Hendra outbreak which resulted in the death of a vet and five horses at a Brisbane clinic.

Another person, a vet nurse, aged 21, has been discharged from hospital.

The state government is expected to appoint a person to run the inquiry this week and has said stakeholders will be consulted on the terms of reference.

It will explore how the Department of Primary Industries handled the disease and is likely to investigate current standards for how veterinarians deal with suspected cases.

A memorial service will be held in Brisbane today for Ben Cunneen, 33, who succumbed to the virus after five weeks in hospital, the last four in intensive care.

His funeral will be held in Sydney.

Hendra was first identified in 1994 in an outbreak that killed racehorse trainer Vic Rail.

In all, six people are known to have contracted the disease. Three have died.

The disease is carried by native fruit bats. It is believed to be transferred through body fluids from the bats falling into troughs, feed dishes, perhaps even pasture.

The mechanism by which it can transfer from horses to people is not known, although body fluids are considered most likely.

Meanwhile, horse owners are being asked to report Hendra-like illnesses to Biosecurity Queensland.

Testing to date has proved negative, adding further evidence that the disease is not widespread in the Queensland horse population.