Concern over Hendra Outbreak

As the July Grafton racing carnival kicks off, officials are doing all they can to reassure the public and the horse racing community that there is no need for concern in regard to the recent confirmation that a horse had to be put down due to having the Hendra Virus. Panic that an outbreak might occur began to stir, thus officials, as well as veterinarians have cautioned horse owners to be aware and alert, but there is no reason for immediate alarm. No areas have been quarantined, only the stables where individual horses are held.

The Hendra Virus is part of the Henipavirus genus, and to date there is no vaccine for horses or humans. It is a fact that humans can transmit the disease to horses, causing fatal neurological and respiratory problems in horses. Most horses that contract the Hendra Virus face death, and even though humans can transmit the disease to horses, no cases have been documented that confirms that humans have transmitted the disease to other humans. Fruit bats are the usual culprits in hosting the Hendra virus, and it has been found that humans who have contracted the virus were in very high contact with the bodily fluids of horses. It is a very rare disease and due to the Australian outbreak in 1994, which claimed the lives of twenty-one horses and one human, followed by ten more cases of the virus in horses and three involving humans, makes everyone’s concern understandable.

Dr. Chris Reardon, a local vet, commented that he understood the panic that has arisen amongst horse owners, but encouraged them to rather be vigilant and said that the racing industry would not be shut down as the properties that have been involved in Hendra Virus outbreaks have been quarantined, as the virus does not spread in the same way Equine Influenza does. He went on to say that horse owners should just look out for the signs and symptoms. Personal hygiene of those working with the horses should be stepped up, as the key to avoiding the Hendra Virus was personal hygiene.