Vets take steps to re­duce hen­dra risk

Central and North Burnett Times - - NEWS -

SPREAD­ING THE MES­SAGE: Gayn­dah vet Nathan Hitch­cock, Mun­dub­bera vet Anja Sch­midt and hen­dra sur­vivor Natalie Beohm get be­hind the vac­ci­na­tion drive in the North Bur­nett. IT COSTS lit­tle more than im­mu­nis­ing a puppy, but many horse own­ers are putting off hav­ing their horses vac­ci­nated against the life-threat­en­ing hen­dra virus due to the per­ceived ex­pense.

The vac­cine has been avail­able since Novem­ber 2012, and has proven highly ef­fec­tive against the in­cur­able bat-borne virus, which has claimed the lives of four peo­ple and 80 horses since first iden­ti­fied in 1994.

So far the vac­cine has re­ceived a mixed re­ac­tion in the eques­trian com­mu­nity, with some rush­ing to get their an­i­mals vac­ci­nated and many more hold­ing off for vary­ing rea­sons.

“Vet­eri­nar­i­ans and their staff are most at risk of con­tract­ing hen­dra virus and they ac­count for all but one of the hu­man cases,” Mun­dub­bera vet­eri­nar­ian Dr Anja Sch­midt said.

Dr Sch­midt said there was a large range of clin­i­cal signs seen in horses that had con­tracted hen­dra virus, so it was of­ten not im­me­di­ately iden­ti­fied.

She said horses with hen­dra virus had been var­i­ously di­ag­nosed with colic, snake bite, “choke”, or just pre­sented as vaguely un­well. In­fected horses have had a nor­mal, high or low tem­per­a­ture.

Dr Sch­midt is so con­cerned about hen­dra virus she will im­ple­ment a pol­icy at the clinic from De­cem­ber 1 to avoid any po­ten­tial ex­po­sure, in­clud­ing re­fusal of ser­vice to un­vac­ci­nated horses.

Gayn­dah vet­eri­nar­ian Nathan Hitch­cock is putting in place sim­i­lar guide­lines to pro­tect him­self and his staff.

“If I have to risk my life to do my job, it is not worth it,” Dr Hitch­cock said.

“Most vet­eri­nar­ian surg­eries will be putting the same safe­guards in place – it is not just a few of us.”

But horse own­ers have hit back at the new pol­icy.

“In­stead of con­stantly hound­ing the horse own­ers, let’s get the gov­ern­ment to sub­sidise the vac­cines or do some­thing about the over­pop­u­la­tion of bats,” Jea­nine Hamil­ton said on Face­book.

“I agree there are ques­tions about the vac­cine, but have to say that we have foals be­ing born now by a stal­lion that is vac­ci­nated.

“We horse own­ers are not a bunch of idiots; we re­search and take the best course of ac­tion that we can for our in­di­vid­ual sit­u­a­tion.

“We have our com­pe­ti­tion horses that travel vac­ci­nated, but a lot more that aren’t. I don’t be­lieve that my un­vac­ci­nated horses at home are of any risk, nor do I think my vet is silly enough to ar­rive here un­pre­pared when I’ve given a full list of symp­toms.”

PHOTO: NOEL THOMP­SON

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