Hendra virus risk on workers and animals

Eleven people have been exposed to the fatal Hendra virus at two Queensland properties. This was confirmed after two horses had died last week; one at Ingham, north of Townsville and one near Rockhampton on Saturday.

According to The Australian, authorities conducted health assessments on the owners and veterinarians of the two horses that died after contracting the Hendra virus. They also examined other animals on the properties where the two horses have died.

Rick Symons, Queensland chief veterinary officer said that Queensland was entering the “high risk” Hendra period but also said that the virus could happen any time of the year. Mr Symons, however, said that having two cases occur at almost the same time in different regions was unusual.

“They are at virtually the same time and we don’t know whether that is a coincidence or an indication of things to come,” said Mr Symons.

“Every Hendra case concerns us because it’s a risk to horses and it’s a risk to people.”

Queensland’s chief health officer, Jeannette Young, confirmed on Wednesday that 11 people were exposed in the latest Hendra outbreaks, but that they had a “low level” of risk.

Hendra virus is transmitted from asymptomatic flying foxes to horses and can also spread to humans in rare cases. Since 1994, four out of seven cases in human were fatal. It was declared endemic across NSW and Queensland in 2011 after 22 horses died and a dog was euthanased.

Small trials are being conducted for a CSIRO-developed Hendra vaccine. Australian Animal Health Laboratory veterinary pathologist, Deborah Middleton, said that they are now working with a commercial manufacturer and are hoping to do a widespread release of the vaccine next year.


OHS News

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