Horse owners urged to report illnesses (AU)

The Sydney Morning Herald reports on 24 Aug 2008:

    Horse owners in Queensland are being encouraged to contact Biosecurity Queensland if the animals show signs of illness.

    The chief veterinary officer with the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, Dr Ron Glanville, said routine tests for the Hendra virus were being carried out on a number of sick horses.

    The virus was first confirmed on July 8 at Redlands Veterinary Clinic, in bayside Brisbane.

    The senior equine vet at the clinic, Ben Cunneen, 33, died on Wednesday after a month in intensive care.

    He is the third person to die from the virus since the first known outbreak in 1994, which killed popular horse trainer Vic Rail and 14 horses.

    In the latest outbreak, the virus presented differently, making it more difficult to diagnose.

    “There’s no doubt many horse owners are Hendra-aware and there’s been a modest increase in the number of people calling about possible testing,” Dr Glanville said.

    “The increased number of investigations is providing further assurance that this serious virus is not present in the general horse population across the state.”

    Horses affected by Hendra virus can display a range of symptoms, including a very high temperature and sudden onset of respiratory problems or neurological signs such as circling, unsteadiness or blindness.

    “If you have a concern about your horse you should stay away from it and not hesitate to call because we are here to provide our expertise and support and to take action in cases of concern,” Dr Glanville said.

    “When owners and veterinarians with concerns about a sick horse call us, they are supporting Queensland’s effort to effectively monitor our horse population and combat disease.”

    The Hendra virus is transmitted from bats to horses and then to humans, who develop flu-like symptoms, drowsiness and balance problems.

    There has been no human-to-human transmission, but authorities have admitted to knowing little about the deadly potential of the virus.

    The state government has announced horse industry stakeholders will be involved in a review of the latest Hendra cases to help identify what lessons can be learnt.

    A memorial service for Dr Cunneen will be held in Brisbane on Monday, with a private funeral service in Sydney later in the week.

    A Redlands Clinic nurse was also hospitalised with the Hendra virus but she has been released and doctors are confident she will make a full recovery.

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Source: Sydney Morning Herald

© 2008 AAP

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