August 26, 2008

The outcome of an inquiry into the response of Queensland's Primary Industries Department into the recent Hendra outbreak is likely by late October.

The outbreak has left a senior equine veterinarian dead and a vet nurse recovering at home from the virus, which is carried by the native fruit bat population. Horses can catch the virus and there have been six known cases where it has been passed on to humans. The outbreak was centred on a Brisbane vet clinic, where five horses died. A further unrelated outbreak occurred in norther Queensland.

Horse industry stakeholders will be sent draft terms of reference for the review of the latest cases in Queensland to identify what lessons can be learned.

Primary Industries Minister Tim Mulherin says expects feedback about the proposed terms of reference from the Horse Industry Council and the Australian Veterinarians' Association.

"I am aware that there is a high level of public interest in Hendra, which is why I have asked for an independent review of the Department's emergency response," he said.

"Queenslanders can be assured that this review will be properly focused and they can expect that those responsible will identify how and where improvements can be made.

"The draft terms of reference include a review of the department's standard operating procedures, as well as standards for veterinarians about the handling of suspect Hendra virus cases.

Workplace health and safety for departmental officers is also included.

Mulherin thanked Biosecurity Queensland officers for their professionalism and hard work in the challenging circumstances surrounding the outbreak.

"Biosecurity Queensland's officers continue to learn and examine their operating standards.

"The processes required to appoint an independent consultant to head the review are under way and it's expected the services of an appropriately qualified person will be secured next week.

"The consultant will be asked to report on the findings by the end of October 2008."