Horse dies from Hendra virus in New South Wales

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Hendra-injectionA horse located on the north coast of Australia’s New South Wales has died from the Hendra virus, officials have confirmed.

The horse died on Saturday near Murwillumbah, according to the state’s Department of Primary Industries.

The department’s chief veterinary officer, Ian Roth, said the 19-year-old gelding died on Saturday afternoon after showing typical Hendra symptoms, including lethargy, for two to three days prior.

The horse had since been buried and the property was placed under quarantine today.

Samples from the horse were sent for laboratory analysis and results had confirmed the Hendra virus, he said.

“An additional Murwillumbah property that received a gelding which had been in contact with the sick horse will also be quarantined,” he said.

Tracing was under way to confirm movements on or off the property, while two other horses and two dogs on the infected property were being closely monitored for any warning signs of the virus, which is carried by native fruit bats known as flying-foxes.

The virus is able to jump from infected horses to people through close contact with bodily fluids from an infected animal. Of the seven known cases in humans, four have proved fatal.

New South Wales Health had been informed of the horse’s death and several people who had contact with the dead horse had been assessed.

It is the first Hendra case in the state this year. The department said the horse had not been vaccinated for Hendra virus.

The department has been encouraging horse owners to see their veterinarians to work out their vaccination strategy against Hendra virus.

“Winter is the season when horses have been infected with Hendra in NSW in the past, so now is the time to get a vaccine booster for your horse,” Roth said.

“Vaccination is the single most effective way of reducing the risk of Hendra virus infection in horses.”

Roth said people in contact with horses needed to practice good biosecurity and personal hygiene measures, even if a horse was vaccinated against Hendra virus.

“Horses should be kept away from flowering and fruiting trees that are attractive to bats. Do not place feed and water under trees and cover feed and water containers with a shelter so they cannot be contaminated from above.

“People should avoid touching sick horses but if they need to come into direct contact ensure they are wearing gloves and a protective mask and avoid any contact with secretions from the animal.”

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