By now, you will be aware of the recent case of Hendra Virus detected in a horse in the Upper Hunter Valley. The horse was a non-Thoroughbred mare and was euthanised after her owners noticed neurological signs of distress.
While the Hendra Virus has not been detected in Victoria, you may have some questions about the virus and what it means.
Hendra is most likely to appear during the winter months and has the likelihood of fatal consequences in horses. There have also been four known occasions in Australia where humans have died as a result of contracting the disease, though each of these cases has occurred when the possibility of Hendra Virus was not considered.
Hendra is endemic in flying foxes and they can transmit the disease so it is important to ensure horses do not have feed or water underneath trees where flying foxes are feeding or roosting.
Thoroughbred Breeders Australia (TBA) chief executive Tom Reilly said farms should review their protocols for dealing with sick horses and contact a veterinarian immediately if they have any concerns.
He said: “This is an isolated case, remote from Thoroughbred breeding centres of the Hunter however it is a reminder to people to be aware and alert when it comes to dealing with sick horses.
“TBA encourages farms to review their protocols for dealing with horses showing signs of sickness and to contact their veterinarian immediately if they have any concerns.”
Hendra can be difficult to identify with signs often being mild. These can include an increased temperature, lethargy, respiratory discharge or distress, neurological signs, mild colic signs or sudden death.
A highly protective and safe Hendra vaccine is available and involves two initial vaccinations 21-42 days apart followed by a booster at six months, and then annual boosters after that.
Some stud farms in the Hunter Valley have changed their business policies in relation to allowing unvaccinated mares onto farms for covers. It is important that if you are getting your mare covered in the Hunter Valley, that you liaise with the farm ahead of time to discuss any concerns you may have.