The Queensland government has published an alert, saying those dealing with horses need to adopt sound hygiene and biosecurity measures as "routine work practice".
The document outlines strategies aimed at minimising the risk of the lethal Hendra virus infecting people.
It follows the death in early September of Rockhampton vet Dr Alister Rodgers, who contracted the disease while treating a sick horse.
"Hendra virus outbreaks are rare. However, the potential seriousness of the disease for both humans and horses requires that workplace health and safety measures to prevent infection should be implemented at workplaces where there is occupational contact with horses," the government said.
"Infected horses may shed Hendra virus before showing clinical signs of illness, and by the time a horse becomes ill the virus may be widespread in the horse's body and body fluids.
"It is therefore important that sound hygiene and biosecurity (animal disease control) measures are adopted as a routine work practice for all horse contact."
The virus is carried by native bats, but can be passed to horses. People can catch the virus from the body fluids of sick horses.
"Hendra virus requires careful risk management. You should consider developing a plan for responding to a suspect, highly suspect or confirmed case of Hendra virus at your workplace, including how you will minimise the risk to yourself, your workers and others such as visiting horse practitioners (farriers, etc.). You should then train your workers in the implementation of the plan."
It said those dealing with horses should consider the following measures:
- Take steps to protect horses from becoming infected with Hendra virus, such as by placing feed bins and water troughs away from areas where bats feed or roost.
- Ensure safe systems of work as a routine work practice for all contact with horses, their blood and body fluids and associated equipment. This includes regular hand hygiene, maintaining standards of cleanliness and stable hygiene, and cleaning and disinfecting equipment that has been in contact with the body fluids of horses.
- If you have a sick horse, isolate the animal from other horses, people and animals.
- Avoid close contact with a sick horse where possible. If this is unavoidable, consider the horse's blood and body fluids as potentially infectious and take precautions to prevent contact with these. Use personal protective equipment to protect your clothing, exposed skin and face from contact with the horse's blood and body fluids. If this includes PPE that you and your workers are not familiar with, such as particulate respirators, provide training in its correct use. Cover cuts and abrasions with a water-resistant dressing and follow instructions for biosecurity and personal safety provided by a Biosecurity Queensland officer or veterinarian.
- If you have handled a sick horse, and before contact with other horses, wash off any contamination with plenty of soap and water, shower and wash your hair and change your clothes. Arrange your activities so that you have contact with the sick horse last.
- Always consider Hendra virus as a possible cause of illness in horses.