Hendra Virus Scare in Brisbane

The Hendra Virus strikes fear in the hearts of every Australian horse owner and trainer, as it is a deadly virus that not only targets horses but can also be a danger to humans. As the outbreak of the Hendra Virus that has been detected at the Brisbane Bayside Veterinary Practice and Redlands Veterinary Clinic brings back nightmarish thoughts of the first outbreak in 1994, staff members wait anxiously on the blood test results, with authorities trying to reassure the horse racing industry that the virus has been contained.

The Hendra Virus is a relatively new virus that was first encountered and identified in Australia in 1994. To date, it has not been seen anywhere else in the world, and when it broke out in Mackay and Brisbane it took the lives of fourteen horses in one stable yard alone, including their trainer, Vic Rail. In 1999, one horse was diagnosed with the Hendra Virus, but until now all has been quiet. It has been identified as part of the Paramyxoviridae family and research has shown that its natural reservoir is a type of bat that is found in Australia, known as the Flying Foxes.

The virus is a neurologic and respiratory disease that is detected by symptoms such as respiratory distress, head pressing, ataxia and increased mucus around the mouth, increased mucus by the nose, lethargy and fever. It is not an airborne virus and one horse cannot give it to another, but humans can contract the virus by being in contact with exposed tissue, secretions and bodily fluids of an infected animal.

Biosecurity measures are being taken. All the horses at the facilities with this most recent outbreak of the virus are being tested and authorities are confident that the virus has been contained. Horse racing will continue as usual, as the Hendra Virus cannot be spread like, for instance, equine influenza. Queensland Racing has confirmed that racing events will take place as scheduled and that the racing industry will be kept updated on the situation at all times. Investigation into this current outbreak will continue, as will the research on the Hendra Virus. Much has been learnt about the virus already, and in some cases horses have responded to treatment and recovered. But finding the exact cause of the outbreak is still under scrutiny and authorities are taking serious action in regard to the virus. New diseases always pose a challenge, but for now the horses of Australia are being watched carefully and horsemen wait anxiously for the all clear.

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