Local veterinarians are adopting strict protocols to deal with Hendra cases.
Local veterinarians are adopting strict protocols to deal with Hendra cases. Rob Wright

Vets suit up for Hendra virus

SPACE suits are the new attire for vets dealing with horses showing symptoms which could be linked to the deadly Hendra virus.

Everyone in the equine industry is jumpy following the death of seven horses in five outbreaks of the disease in Queensland and NSW in the last fortnight, including the Coffs Coast’s first case.

A horse which died on Sunday morning on a Macksville property was confirmed on Wednesday to have had Hendra virus.

It was the second outbreak in northern NSW in a week and only the third instance of Hendra in NSW.

A horse put down at Wollongbar near Lismore on June 30 was found to be suffering from the virus.

The 16 year old mare, which became ill on Friday, was in a paddock with a fig tree and is believed to have caught the virus from eating pasture or fruit contaminated by Hendra-infected flying foxes.

Dr Stephen Deist from Coffs Harbour’s Pacific Vetcare, which looks after horses in an area from Urunga to Halfway Creek and Glenreagh, said they had sent away ‘five or six’ samples for Hendra testing from Coffs Coast horses in the last 12 months and although all had come back negative, they were always watching for signs of the virus.

“We will definitely be more vigilant and horse owners must be more vigilant too in their own hygiene and in looking after food and water for their horses," he said.

“We often see horses in paddocks with flying foxes around."

Owners are warned to cover all cuts and to wash thoroughly with soap and water after contact with their horse, especially the horses mouth and nose.

Vets taking samples foe suspect horses must now wear protective suits, masks, visors, boots and double gloves and must dispose of such clothing as contaminated waste after each visit.

Hendra is fatal to about 75 per cent of horses which catch it from flying foxes and has killed four of the seven people who have contracted the disease from horses.

Dr Deist said high temperature; fast heart rate and sudden illness were warning signs of the disease in horses.

“They reckon 48 hours but it can be within hours,” he said.

The latest Hendra case was a horse which died in Park Ridge in Brisbane on Monday.

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