Hygiene key to preventing deadly Hendra
|Hygiene key to preventing deadly Hendra - 24th Jul 2012|
|Following the recent spate of Hendra cases in Queensland, the Animal Health Alliance (AHA) is urging horse owners and veterinarians to remain vigilant and adopt all necessary safety precautions when dealing with sick horses.|
AHA chief executive, Dr Peter Holdsworth, said this was the fifth time this year that Queensland authorities had been put on high alert for the deadly virus, which has killed four people since its discovery in 1994.
"The Hendra virus is incredibly dangerous and can be fatal. It is critical that horse owners and veterinarians take all necessary precautions to protect themselves and their staff if they are in contact with a horse suspected of having Hendra," Dr Holdsworth said.
"Hendra can be difficult to detect initially, so a high level of caution is always advisable. The Alliance recommends following standard hygiene practices, as outlined by the Australian Veterinary Association, in all contact with horses that may be infected.
"These practices include using disposable gloves for contact with blood, body fluids, excretions and wearing protective clothing and facial masks where there is a risk of contact with blood and body fluids.
"Disposal of waste, including contaminated clothing and stable manure, should be undertaken by people who are aware of the risks and familiar with appropriate disposal methods.
"By isolating the sick or dead horse from all people, the risk of the infection being passed to other animals and humans is reduced," he said.
The disease is carried by bat populations in Australia, and while bats do not show any symptoms, the virus can be fatal for horses and humans. Last year alone, there were 10 incidents of Hendra virus in Queensland and eight in New South Wales.
A horse infected with the virus will usually have a fever and increased heart rate, and may show signs of restlessness and depression. An infected horse can deteriorate rapidly with respiratory and neurological symptoms.
"Horse owners should contact their vet and the relevant authorities as soon as a horse starts to show symptoms," said Dr Holdsworth.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is currently developing a Hendra vaccine for horses, which it hopes to have registered in 2013.
If you are concerned about a horse on your property, contact Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23 (business hours) or the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888 (24 hour hotline).
More information on the Hendra virus is available on the Biosecurity Queensland website - www.daff.qld.gov.au – and the Australian Veterinary Association website – www.ava.com.au/hendra-virus
Courtesy Fairfax Digital and The Land www.theland.farmonline.com.au