Now’s the time to vaccinate against Hendra, Aust vets say

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A confocal microscopic image shows bat cells infected with the Hendra virus. Photo: CSIRO
A confocal microscopic image shows bat cells infected with the Hendra virus. Photo: CSIRO

As winter nears Australian veterinarians are urging owners to vaccinate their horses against the deadly Hendra virus.

Although the Hendra virus can strike at any time, traditionally there are more cases seen during the cooler months, said Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) equine group president Dr Ben Poole.

“Hendra Virus is a deadly virus. For the benefit of horses and their owners, it is essential that horses located in, around or travelling to high-risk Hendra areas along the east coast, are vaccinated against Hendra virus,” he said.

The virus was identified in 1994. Since then, there have been more than 60 known Hendra incidents in Queensland and New South Wales, resulting in the deaths of 102 horses. It is carried by flying-fox fruit bats.

“Every one of these horses that has died because of Hendra represents one more compelling reason for horse owners to vaccinate their horses.

“The risk this disease poses to human health is also very real with seven confirmed cases in people leading to four deaths. So, it’s important that the horse community remains vigilant in protecting both horses and people from Hendra,” Poole said.

Poole said that the vaccine, introduced in 2012, remains the most effective way to manage the Hendra virus and is fully registered with the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority.

“Vaccination of horses provides a public health and workplace health and safety benefit by reducing the risk of Hendra virus transmission to humans and other susceptible animals and helps to ensure high standards of animal health and welfare.”

Horse owners should contact their local veterinarian for more information about Hendra virus vaccination, he said.

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