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Seventy-six Queensland horses being monitored for Hendra

July 14, 2011

The latest Hendra case, near Cairns, in Queensland's far north, has resulted in 36 horses being placed under observation. In all, 76 are now being monitored for signs of the disease across the state.

Authorities have to date located six people who had contact with the infected horse, but all are considered to be in the low-risk category.

The animal's death at a Kuranda property has taken the Hendra death toll to eight in three weeks.

Officials are continuing inquiries to discover if the 36 horses on the property had any contact with other horses.

Queensland's Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said staff would continue to undertake contact tracing work to ensure all people potentially exposed to the sick horse had been identified.

"I would like to reassure any tourists or visitors to the property over the weekend that transmission of the virus requires close contact with body fluids of the sick horse.

"There is no evidence that the virus can be passed directly from flying foxes to humans, from the environment to humans, or from humans to horses."

In all, nine properties remained under quarantine in Queensland from the six confirmed cases of Hendra in horses. A total of 76 horses are being monitored daily across the state, Symons said.

"However, while there is an increase in the number of infections this year, I would stress that this is still a rare disease and these are discrete incidents - Hendra virus is not spreading like other diseases such as Equine Influenza.

"On the rare occasions when the disease is transmitted from flying foxes to horses, the virus can only then spread from horses to horses or horses to humans who are in close contact with the infected horse.

"The best protection for people is for them to put their own safety first - they must wear protective equipment if they suspect any illness in their horses."

Symons said the first meeting of the cross-border Hendra Virus Taskforce was also held in Brisbane today, with a focus on maintaining a cooperative approach between Queensland and New South Wales.

"While the two governments were already working closely, we have reaffirmed our commitment to ensure we maintain a consistent and coordinated response across both states to Hendra virus incidents.

"Through this meeting we have agreed to share Hendra virus response guidelines and communication materials along with research knowledge.

"While Queensland has been exposed to the virus since 1994, we recognise that the disease is still relatively new and we can further build on what we have developed by drawing on new expertise.

"We have a lot of knowledge to share, but there are still plenty of questions to address before we can understand all aspects of how the virus behaves."

The Hendra virus taskforce was formed after discussions between Queensland premier Anna Bligh and NSW premier Barry O'Farrell last week.

It includes the chief veterinarians, chief health officers and chief scientists from both states as well as a CSIRO representative.

The next meeting of the Taskforce is scheduled to be held within the next two weeks.



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