Horse owners in Western Australia are reminded to remain vigilant for signs of Hendra virus in their horses and to take steps to reduce the risk of it occurring.
Department of Agriculture and Food veterinary officer Tom De Ridder said while Hendra virus had never been diagnosed in WA, the department has managed several cases of sick horses in northern WA with signs similar to Hendra virus.
“These cases were not diagnosed as Hendra virus, but it is important for horse owners and handlers to be aware that there is a risk of the virus occurring in horses wherever they have contact with flying foxes (fruit bats),” Dr De Ridder said.
“Horse owners in northern WA need to be particularly vigilant as flying foxes north of Shark Bay have been shown to carry the virus.
“Horse owners can take several measures to reduce the risk of their horses becoming infected with Hendra virus.
“First, they should minimise contact between their horses and the urine, faeces and fruit debris from flying foxes.
“A simple way to do this is to remove horses from paddocks with fruiting or flowering trees where flying foxes feed or to fence off those areas. Owners should also place feed bins and water troughs under cover.”
Dr De Ridder said horse owners also had the option to vaccinate their horses against Hendra virus.
“While the department does not require horses to be vaccinated against Hendra virus, horse owners may wish to discuss vaccination with their veterinarian if their horses are likely to have contact with flying foxes or travel to Queensland or northern New South Wales or have contact with horses from those states at events,” he said.
“While the vaccine is an important preventive measure, no vaccine is 100 per cent effective and boosters are required, so horse owners and veterinarians will need to continue to be alert for signs of Hendra virus in vaccinated horses and to take measures to protect their own health.
“Signs include high fever with rapid deterioration in health, laboured breathing, discharge from the nose, wobbly gait, lack of coordination and dullness.
“If a horse shows signs suspected to be Hendra virus, and has either been in contact with flying foxes or recently been imported from or had contact with horses from Queensland or New South Wales, owners should immediately isolate the horse from people, other horses and animals and contact their veterinarian or the Emergency Animal Disease hotline on 1800 675 888.
“Owners should not have close contact with the horse until they receive veterinary advice.”
For more information about Hendra virus, search ‘Hendra’ at agric.wa.gov.au.
Information about the Hendra virus vaccine is available at health4horses.com.au.
Media contacts: Jodie Thomson/Lisa Bertram, media liaison +61 (0)8 9368 3937