Low risk virus spread to valley

AFTER an outbreak of Hendra virus near Beaudesert, equine experts from UQ Gatton are warning the public to be vigilant, and the current outbreak does not pose a ‘direct threat' to the Lockyer Valley.

Although a third animal has been put down at Boonah on Monday after testing positive to the deadly virus.

Four properties, 35 horses and 15 people are currently being monitored.

Dr Andrew Van Eps is a senior lecturer in equine medicine at UQ Gatton and believes the virus is unlikely to spread unless there is close contact with an infected animal.

“We don't really know how or why it gets transmitted from bats but it appears to be seasonal and may have something to do with bat breeding behaviour,” Dr Van Eps said.


Although it is the winter racing season and show season, he said the Lockyer Valley is no different to anywhere else in Queensland.

“In recent years the cases suggest it is cropping up at this time of the year,” he said.

“The current outbreak in Beaudesert is not a specific threat to horses in the Lockyer Valley because it doesn't spread rapidly. It is more something that occurs as a sporadic incidence.”

Dr Van Eps said vets are well in tune with this problem.

“The main message is for people to be vigilant, particularly at this time of the year – if their animal isn't 100 per cent the first port of call should be their local veterinarian,” he said.

So far eight people have been exposed to the lethal disease on two separate farms south of Brisbane.

The Beaudesert outbreak is believed to be the 15th case since the virus was first identified about 16 years ago.

Hendra virus symptoms range from severe respiratory disease to wobbliness or any abnormal behaviour.

“The horse may or may not have a fever,” Dr Van Eps said.

“The bottom line is you can't really spot a Hendra virus case early and the animal can go on to die within one to two days.

“Since the disease is impossible to identify prior to testing, caution and basic hygiene should be exercised with every horse, in particular if they are showing symptoms.”

He said it is not easily spread and in most cases if a horse was to pass it on to horses or humans they would have to be in very close contact and exchange bodily fluids.

“With horses it would have to be nose to nose contact and it can occur in stables, but the research isn't really there.”

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