The Hendra virus has claimed another horse in the mid-north coastal area of New South Wales – the fourth to have died from the bat-borne disease in the region in the last month.
The latest horse to test positive for the virus was on a property at Dondingalong, near Kempsey, the state’s Department of Primary Industries confirmed yesterday.
“The 13 year-old quarter horse was not doing well, had become dull and reluctant to move, and was treated with a course of antibiotics,” the state’s acting chief veterinary officer, Dr Therese Wright, said.
“The horse’s condition deteriorated rapidly on Monday with neurological changes, aimless wandering, jaundice and fever, and it was sampled by a private veterinarian.
“The Hendra virus was confirmed by the state’s virology laboratory at the Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute.
“A second in-contact horse will be vaccinated and will be closely monitored by a Livestock Health and Pest Authority veterinarian.”
The horse would be tested three times before the property was released from quarantine, Wright said.
“Tracing is also under way to determine if any horses have left the property in recent weeks.”
The death is the fourth in the area in the last month. The other horses to die were in Kempsey and Macksville.
Wright said the uptake of vaccination unfortunately remained low and state authorities wanted all horse owners to vaccinate their horses against the virus.
“Vaccinating your horse is the single most effective way of protecting you and yourself from the Hendra virus.”
The state’s health director of communicable diseases, Dr Vicky Sheppeard, urged people in contact with sick horses to take precautions to protect themselves from Hendra and other viruses.
The local public health unit was assessing the risk to the humans who came into contact with the latest affected horse.
“All people, including owners and vets, who handle sick horses should always wear gloves, a mask, protective clothing and eye protection as a precaution,” Sheppeard said.
“Horse blood, nose and lung secretions, and urine can all carry the virus and put people who come in contact with them at risk.
“Human treatments for Hendra remain experimental, so avoidance of exposure to the virus is the safest course of action.”