$6m for cross border Hendra virus research
From the August 2011 edition of Agriculture Today.
NSW animal owners have so far made 126 submissions of 418 samples for testing for Hendra virus to the Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute (EMAI) .
The vast majority of samples came from horses. Some were from dogs.
The NSW and Queensland governments will each contribute additional funding of $3 million, a total of $6 million, to boost vital research into the Hendra virus, on advice from internationally-renowned Hendra scientists and key members of the cross-border Hendra Taskforce in Brisbane.
The meeting of scientists and taskforce members followed a new twist in the current outbreak, with the detection for the first time of Hendra in a dog in Queensland.
NSW Primary Industries Minister, Katrina Hodgkinson, said scientists from EMAI would be part of a team of disease experts.
“This year an increase in the number of confirmed cases of Hendra virus infection has been recorded and analysis of local flying fox populations shows a rise in the number of flying foxes carrying the virus,” Katrina Hodgkinson said.
“Greater understanding is needed around bat ecology, the triggers for bats to excrete more Hendra virus at certain times and whether this behaviour is specific to particular conditions or locations."
Horse owners are being advised to take extra precautions following five horse deaths from Hendra virus (at the time press) on the NSW North Coast.
NSW DPI had confirmed Hendra virus as the cause of the horse deaths on four NSW North Coast properties.
The big questions
- Why does the virus spill-over from flying foxes?
- How are horses and other animals exposed to Hendra Virus?
- Why is there such a spike in cases this year?
A Mullumbimby-area property was the fourth in NSW affected, after properties at Wollongbar, Lismore and Macksville were quarantined in July.
All dogs and cats tested in NSW for Hendra have been negative.
Hendra virus can spread from flying foxes to horses and, rarely, from horses to people.
NSW chief veterinary officer, Ian Roth, says Hendra virus can cause a range of clinical signs in horses.
“Hendra should be considered in horses where there is acute onset of fever and rapid progression to death associated with either respiratory or nervous signs,” he said.
“If you suspect your horse has Hendra virus keep away from the horse and call your private veterinarian immediately.
Dr Roth said there has been no evidence of human-to-human or flying fox-to-human spread of Hendra virus.
NSW DPI advises horse owners to take precautions in areas with flying foxes – to reduce the risk of their horses becoming infected:
Place feed and water containers under cover
- Don’t place feed and water under trees, especially trees with fruit
- Don’t use feed that could attract flying foxes, such as apples, carrots, or molasses
- Remove horses from paddocks where fruiting or flowering trees have temporarily attracted flying foxes
- If it is not possible to remove the horse from the paddock, tape off the area under the tree.
NSW DPI has a range of electronic communication tools to assist horse owners find the facts on Hendra in NSW.
NSW DPI principal director of biosecurity, Bruce Christie, said the community could now easily stay informed on the current Hendra situation in NSW online.
“Members of the community can now receive everything they need to know about the Hendra situation in NSW easily and quickly using Twitter, a regular email newsletter and our NSW Hendra web portal,” Dr Christie said.
“The horse community plays an important role in preventing the spread of the Hendra virus and these new electronic tools will help NSW DPI keep them up-to-date at all times.
“Information we will provide will include information on outbreaks, tips on how to keep you and your horse safe from the Hendra virus and dates of public information events.”
Follow NSW DPI on Twitter: http://twitter.com/nswdpi
Register to receive the NSW Hendra email newsletter: www.agriculture.nsw.gov.au/info/hendra
The Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline is 800 675 888.