Hendra case at Chinchilla lifts horse toll to 14

July 24, 2011

Australia's grim Hendra horse toll has reached 14, with confirmation of another death from the bat-borne virus.

Biosecurity Queensland has confirmed a Hendra case on a property in the Chinchilla area.

Queensland's chief biosecurity officer, Dr Jim Thompson, said Biosecurity Queensland officers were on site quarantining the property.

The latest death takes the Hendra toll in Queensland to 10, with four further deaths in New South Wales.

Queensland cases have been confirmed in Beaudesert, Mt Alford, Park Ridge, Kuranda, Hervey Bay, Boondall, Logan, and now Chinchilla.

In all, 83 horses in the state are being monitored, plus four so far identified at Chinchilla.

Fifty-seven people are being tested for the virus, with the number of people potentially exposed at Chinchilla yet to be determined.

No-one to date is considered to have had heavy exposure to the virus, which has killed four of the seven people known to have contracted it since the virus was first identified in Brisbane in 1994.

Thompson said of the latest case: "The infected horse had shown rapid onset of illness that was typical of Hendra virus and died in the care of a private practitioner on Friday.

"We understand there are four other horses on the property but full tracing is also being undertaken to locate any other horses that may have been in contact with the infected horse.

"Biosecurity Queensland and Queensland Health staff will be on the ground doorknocking neighbours to gather information on their animals and to provide them with information about Hendra virus.

"The property is being quarantined to restrict the movement of horses on and off. Each of the four remaining horses on the property will be sampled and undergo three rounds of testing before they are cleared - this is typically 30 to 35 days."

Queensland Health, key horse industry groups and the Australian Veterinary Association have been notified of this latest case.

Thompson said this Hendra virus infection was the furthest west that a Hendra case had been recorded.

"This highlights the need for horse owners across the state to be vigilant for signs consistent with Hendra virus infection.

"Hendra virus is not highly infectious and, consequently, the horse industry is not subject to movement restrictions for Hendra virus - except for the properties currently under quarantine.

"However, horse owners need to take precautions on their properties to protect their horses from Hendra virus infection."

Such precautions include removing horse feed and water containers from under trees and, if possible, placing them under a shelter.

Horse owners are also encouraged to remove horses from paddocks where flowering/fruiting trees are attracting flying fox bats and return horses only after the trees have stopped flowering/fruiting and the flying foxes have left.

"Owners should also consider fencing off access to trees that are identified as attractive to flying foxes."