Hen­dra not only deadly

Re­lives the hor­ror of con­tract­ing and mirac­u­lously sur­viv­ing deadly hen­dra virus The di­ag­no­sis that changed life for­ever for one vet nurse

Central and North Burnett Times - - NEWS - Noel Thomp­son noel.thomp­son@cnbtimes.com.au

HEN­DRA is a lit­tle sub­urb in Bris­bane where peo­ple are hap­pily rais­ing fam­i­lies, work­ing and play­ing.

It is also where, in 1994, a virus started to kill horses then hu­mans.

Back then prom­i­nent horse trainer Vic Rail died.

Horses caught the virus from fly­ing foxes or from other horses.

The virus was spread to peo­ple who came into con­tact with the bod­ily flu­ids of an in­fected horse, and vet­eri­nary nurse Natalie Beohm was one vic­tim.

“I never touched a horse, I didn’t help with the horse, I only did the clin­i­cal stuff, tak­ing care of test­ing nasal se­cre­tions, bloods and alike,” she said.

“I wore proper gloves and a surgery mask when per­form­ing th­ese sim­ple tasks in Red­lands Vet­eri­nary Clinic on Bris­bane’s Bay­side 2008. “I caught the virus. “One month later, my col­league and friend Dr Ben Cunneen died a day after I was re­leased from hos­pi­tal.”

Dr Cunneen’s wife found out that she was preg­nant with their first child when Dr Cunneen, 33, was in a coma.

When she told him that she was preg­nant he ac­tu­ally lifted an eye­brow.

Miss Beohm was 21 in June of that year.

In July strange things started to hap­pen, horses were drop­ping dead with no log­i­cal signs and three horses were put down be­fore the Depart­ment of Pri­mary In­dus­try was called in.

“We were all tested, we all were neg­a­tive,” Ms Beohm said.

“One day after, I started get­ting flu-like symp­toms, body aching and I knew I was sick.

“Life was great I was about to fin­ish my nurs­ing course and I was head­ing just where I wanted, but I thought I should get tested again so I went back to the DPI and they sent me to hos­pi­tal.

“When I said ‘hen­dra’, no one wanted to touch me, just looked through a win­dow at me.

“They just told me I had the flu and sent me home.”

The next morn­ing she re­ceived a call to say she had tested pos­i­tive for hen­dra.

“My tem­per­a­ture was 40, I didn’t know what was hap­pen­ing,” she said.

“In an iso­la­tion room my tem­per­a­ture was so high that you could have cooked an egg on my face but I was freez­ing, fluid on the brain.

“I couldn’t move my fin­gers, I couldn’t walk, talk, shower my­self. I was in hos­pi­tal for six weeks and still didn’t re­mem­ber what hap­pened.”

Ev­ery day Miss Beohm’s par­ents would go home hop­ing she would make it through the night.

The doc­tor had no treat­ment and told them if she lived through the night they would try to get her through un­til lunch.

“Six years on I look nice on the out­side now but inside ev­ery­thing is go­ing wrong and there’s noth­ing I can do to fix it,” Ms Beohm said.

“I am told it (the virus) may be dor­mant my spine and or brain.

“(The) hard­est part is that my life has fully changed it will never go back to what it was be­fore.”


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