An equine veterinarian has warned Tweed residents to vaccinate their horses following a confirmed Hendra virus case just south of Murwillumbah. Photo: Alistair Brightman
An equine veterinarian has warned Tweed residents to vaccinate their horses following a confirmed Hendra virus case just south of Murwillumbah. Photo: Alistair Brightman

Vet explains life threatening equine virus at Tweed

AN equine veterinarian has warned Tweed residents to vaccinate their horses following a confirmed Hendra virus case just south of Murwillumbah.

An unvaccinated thoroughbred was euthanised at the weekend after contracting the virus on a Clothiers Creek property.

The owner noticed the 17-year-old horse was depressed and having difficulty breathing on May 29.

A private veterinarian took samples for Hendra virus exclusion, which was confirmed on Monday.

Equine Veterinarians of Australia president Sam Nugent said he would be concerned if he was a horse owner in the shire due to the virus's life-threatening effects.

Dr Nugent said the virus killed horses and could be passed on to humans who had a greater than 50 per cent chance of dying.

He said the virus presented in a variety of ways from neurological effects, colic, fever and dullness, to respiratory conditions.

"I would have my concerns as a horse owner. Hendra (virus) is hard to be confirmed and testing can take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours," Dr Nugent said

"During that time people, children and vets could be exposed to a potentially very life-threatening virus. I would want to protect myself and my family."

<< Horse euthanised after contracting Hendra virus >>

Dr Nugent said the only way to mitigate the risk of horses contracting Hendra virus was to have them vaccinated.

"The vaccination has been proved and stated by both the Queensland and NSW governments as the best way to manage the virus.

"Also stabling horses at night, removing feed and water from underneath trees, and removing horses from paddocks under trees with bats."

He said Hendra virus was present in certain fruit bats that spilt over to the horse population through bodily fluids.

Dr Nugent said the virus was generally contracted through a horse's food or water source.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has been working with Local Land Services to encourage private veterinarians and horse owners to be aware and undertake sound biosecurity.

In NSW, there have been 23 confirmed horse deaths as a result of Hendra virus since 2006, with most cases occurring on the north coast.

DPI urged horse owners to remain vigilant as the signs of Hendra virus infection were very non-specific early on.

"The vaccination of horses is the most effective way to help manage Hendra virus disease," Dr Britton said.

"Owners should also keep their horses away from flowering and fruiting trees that are attractive to bats.

"Do not place feed and water under trees and cover feed and water containers with a shelter so they cannot be contaminated from above."

If your horse is unwell, keep people and animals away from the horse and call your private veterinarian immediately.

If your vet is unavailable you can call a District Veterinarian with the Local Land Services or the Animal Biosecurity Emergency Hotline on 1800 675 888.