A gravely ill horse euthanized on Tuesday in Queensland was suffering from a Hendra infection, testing has confirmed.
Biosecurity Queensland said a positive test result from samples taken from the animal at Mackay was received last night.
Queensland’s chief veterinary officer, Dr Rick Symons, said the property manager contacted a veterinarian on Tuesday after discovering the horse was seriously ill.
“There are a number of other animals including horses on the property and on adjoining properties,” Symons said. “Tracing is a priority to determine what contact the infected horse had with other animals on all properties.”
He said biosecurity officers visited the property this morning to establish a quarantine.
“Restrictions will apply to moving horses and horse materials on and off the infected property, and the property will be quarantined for at least one month,” Symons said.
Queensland Health personnel have determined only one person had contact with the infected horse. The person has been assessed as having low-level exposure as they wore personal protective equipment and took other appropriate precautions.
Queensland Health’s senior director of communicable diseases, Dr Christine Selvey, said transmission of the virus required close contact with body fluids of an infected horse.
“Queensland Health staff will continue to undertake contact tracing work to ensure all people potentially exposed to the infected horse have been identified,” she said.
It is the fourth Hendra virus incident in Queensland this year.
Previous incidents include one in Townsville in January and two in May – one in Ingham and one in Rockhampton.
Testing is continuing on both the Ingham and Rockhampton properties, which remain under quarantine.
Symons said: “Horse owners need to remain vigilant in taking steps to reduce the risk of infection as Hendra virus can occur year round, but is more common during the cooler months. If a horse becomes sick, owners should contact their veterinarian immediately as happened in this case.”
The latest guidelines for veterinarians handling potential Hendra virus infections in horses has been updated and is available for veterinarians at www.biosecurity.qld.gov.au
Reducing the risk of Hendra virus infection:
- Horse feed and water containers should be removed from under trees. If possible, place feed and water containers under a shelter.
- Owners should inspect and identify flowering/fruiting trees on their property. Horses should be removed from paddocks where these trees are attracting flying foxes. Horses should be returned only after the trees have stopped flowering or fruiting and the flying foxes have gone. If horses cannot be removed from the paddock, consider fencing (temporary or permanent) to restrict access to such trees. Clean up any fruit debris underneath the trees before returning horses.
- If it is not possible to remove horses from paddocks, try to temporarily remove your horses during times of peak flying fox activity (usually at dusk and during the night).
- Ensure that sick horses are isolated from other horses, people and animals until a veterinarian’s opinion is obtained.
- If there is more than one horse on your property, handle unaffected horses first and then only handle sick horses after taking appropriate precautions.
- Make sure gear exposed to any body fluids from horses is cleaned and disinfected before it is used on another horse. This includes halters, lead ropes and twitches. Talk to your veterinarian about which cleaning agents and disinfectants to use.
- When cleaning contaminated equipment from a sick horse, wear gloves, cover any cuts or grazes and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
- It is essential that horse owners practise good biosecurity and not travel with, work on or take sick horses to other properties or equestrian events.
- Do not allow visiting horse practitioners (e.g. farriers) to work on sick horses. Seek veterinary advice before bringing any sick horse onto your property.