hendra virus

What is Hendra Virus and why vaccinate?

Since its discovery in 1994, the Hendra Virus has caused much controversy. Despite any personal stance on vaccination, the deadly consequences of the Hendra Virus remain the same. In this article, we discuss the importance of vaccinating your horse against the Hendra Virus.  A highly infectious disease, Hendra Virus is carried by flying foxes — predominately in Queensland and northern New South Wales — and spreads from flying fox to horse, horse to horse, and horse to human with a significant mortality rate.  Hendra Virus has resulted in a 75% mortality rate in horses and a 57% mortality rate in humans. Unfortunately, due to its high biosecurity risk, any horse with Hendra Virus is required to be humanely euthanized. As such, the actual mortality rate for horses with Hendra Virus is 100%.  Signs of Hendra Virus  The common symptoms of Hendra Virus are very similar to a sudden colic episode. Therefore, Hendra Virus may be suspected in any horse unvaccinated against the disease and showing one or more of these symptoms:  Treating Hendra Virus Strict hygiene and quarantine are the only safeguards to protect you, your loved ones, and anyone else who comes into contact with an infected horse. The horse must be immediately separated from others and personal protective equipment must be worn at all times for your safety.  Any treating veterinarian is also required to adhere to these procedures. However, it’s not uncommon for a veterinarian to refuse to examine a suspected infected horse. Sadly, if Hendra Virus is found following examination, euthanasia is the only option to prevent its spread.  Preventing Hendra Virus in the first place is possible with vaccination. Preventing Hendra Virus  If your horse is unvaccinated against the Hendra Virus, you should follow the below schedule to give them the full benefits of immunity:              3-6 week interval             6 month interval             12 month interval Also Read: What are the common signs of Hendra Virus infection in horses and humans? Why is Hendra Virus a concern for Australian horse owners? Can my horse receive routine veterinary procedures without Hendra vaccination? My horse has colic symptoms. Could it be Hendra Virus?

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My horse has colic symptoms. Could it be Hendra Virus?

Hendra Virus is a  deadly disease with symptoms that mimic those commonly seen during a colic episode. Hendra Virus may be suspected if your horse is unvaccinated against the disease and extreme caution must be taken to minimise its spread.  Many horse owners are already familiar with Hendra Virus, which is a highly infectious disease that is transferred from flying fox to horse, horse to horse and horse to human. Since its discovery in 1994, Hendra Virus poses a 75% mortality rate to horses and 57% mortality rate to humans, however any horse infect with the virus is euthanised so mortality is 100% . As such, vaccination is the only means available to prevent Hendra Virus from affecting you, your horse and your loved ones. Is it Colic or Hendra Virus? For any horse that is unvaccinated against Hendra Virus, a sudden colic episode may be associated with the disease. However, there are several other common signs of Hendra Virus. An afflicted horse may show one or more of these symptoms: Acute onset of illness Increased body temperature Shifting of weight Depression Increased respiratory rate Nasal discharge (clear, white or blood stained) Head tilting or circling Muscle twitching Urinary incontinence Colic If Hendra Virus is suspected and your horse is unvaccinated, a veterinarian may refuse to treat your horse.and euthanasia is required to prevent the disease spreading further. Strict hygiene and quarantine controls must be adhered to when coming into contact with a horse that may have contracted Hendra Virus. Personal protective equipment must be worn and the horse should be placed in quarantine immediately to protect others on the property.

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What are the common signs of Hendra Virus infection in horses and humans?

Hendra Virus is a potentially deadly disease for horses and humans. Some of the common signs of Hendra are similar to colic in horses and influenza in humans, so prompt testing and strict quarantine are instrumental in preventing its spread.  Signs of Hendra Virus in horses  At present, Hendra Virus cannot be passed directly from flying fox to human, so its imperative that horse owners learn the common signs of Hendra Virus to protect their loved ones from exposure to the disease. The common signs of Hendra Virus in horses include, but are not limited to: Acute onset of illness Increased body temperature Shifting of weight Depression Increased respiratory rate Nasal discharge (clear, white or blood stained) Head tilting or circling Muscle twitching Urinary incontinence  Signs of Hendra Virus in humans  The common signs of Hendra Virus in humans include, but are not limited to: Tiredness Fever Headaches Coughing If you suspect a horse on your property has Hendra Virus, all who come into contact with the horse should adhere to strict hygiene practices, including wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). This equipment can easily be purchased from most hardware stores or veterinary clinics. Items for your PPE kit should include: Hand cleansers Soap Disinfectants Waste disposal bags Disposable gloves Overalls Rubber boots Facial masks Safety glasses P2 respiratory (particulate respirator)

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Why is Hendra Virus a concern for Australian horse owners?

Hendra Virus is one of Australia’s most lethal viruses. While its prevalence is low, 75% of horses infected and 57% of humans infected have died from the disease. In total, since its discovery, Hendra Virus has claimed the lives of 81 horses and 4 humans. Hendra Virus transmission Hendra Virus was first discovered in the Brisbane suburb of Hendra in 1994. It is a disease that remains exclusive to Australia and occurs naturally in flying fox populations, with reported cases in Queensland and New South Wales. Due to the wide distribution of flying fox colonies across most states and territories, Hendra Virus is difficult to control. It is spread from flying fox to horse, horse to horse and horse to human, via the transmission of bodily fluids, including blood, nasal discharge, urine and saliva. Hendra Virus prevention Hendra vaccination remains the only method of preventing Hendra infection in horses. However, while the Australian Veterinary Association endorses the Hendra vaccine (Equivac HeV), its use cannot be expected to be 100% effective. Horse owners and veterinarians are encouraged to reduce the risk of infection with hygiene and quarantine practices to prevent its spread. As there is currently no cure for Hendra infection in humans, it is only by preventing Hendra in horses that we can protect the lives of those who interact with them. At present, there is no approved treatment for Hendra Virus in humans. An experimental monoclonal antibody has been granted compassionate use in humans. However, despite its promise, Hendra Virus poses a high risk of fatality.

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What vaccinations should my pregnant mare have?

Vaccinating your mare during pregnancy is critical to protecting the health of her developing foal. The most important vaccinations are 2-in-1 for tetanus and strangles, equine herpes virus and Hendra virus, depending on the area where you live.  2-in-1  Foals are born without any immunity to disease, which is why it’s imperative that your mare is vaccinated against tetanus and strangles four weeks prior to her expected due date. Most commonly, these vaccinations are given together in the 2-in-1 vaccine. Your newborn foal will receive the complete benefits of this protection by consuming a sufficient amount of colostrum within two hours of birth. Watch your mare and foal carefully after delivery to ensure your foal is able to nurse, without difficulty or hindrance by its dam.  Equine herpes virus  If equine herpes virus is a risk on your property, your mare should be vaccinated against strains EHV-1 and EHV-4. At its most severe, EHV-1 can cause abortions in pregnant mares, which is simply heart-wrenching for mare owners. Vaccinating against equine herpes virus should be discussed early on in your mare’s pregnancy, as she’ll need to be vaccinated three times during her pregnancy. Most veterinarians recommend vaccinating at five, seven and nine months of gestation.  Hendra virus  Finally, if your mare is located in regions where Hendra virus cases have occurred, particularly Queensland and New South Wales, or where bats are located. Hendra vaccination is strongly advised. Any Hendra virus vaccine must be administered by a veterinarian and recorded on the national database.

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Can my horse receive routine veterinary procedures without Hendra vaccination?

While Hendra vaccination isn’t mandatory, your horse’s health is at risk if unvaccinated. Hendra virus is deadly to horses and humans, and any horse showing signs of illness may be refused treatment as a safety precaution. It’s important that you discuss your veterinarian’s policies before your horse requires any type of treatment, so you’re prepared in the event your horse is unwell and Hendra virus is suspected. Your veterinarian may require your horse to be confirmed Hendra negative before providing medical care, including potentially life-saving treatment, such as surgery. Hendra virus is transferred from bat to horse, then horse to human. Even simple, routine procedures, such as castration and dental examinations, may potentially expose your veterinarian to this deadly disease. Without vaccination, not only is your horse’s life at risk, but so too are the lives of anyone who comes into contact with a Hendra positive horse. Hendra Virus The first reported case of Hendra virus occurred in September 1994 in the Brisbane suburb of Hendra. While the threat of Hendra virus is mostly limited to Queensland and New South Wales, the mortality rate is high for horses and humans if exposed. Hendra virus is carried by bats and spread via contamination of your horse’s food or water by bats bodily fluids. The difficulty with Hendra virus is that its clinical signs are similar to other common health problems, like colic. The common signs of Hendra virus include: • Acute onset of illness • Increased body temperature • Weight shifting • Depression • Increased respiratory rate • Nasal discharge • Head tilting or circling • Muscle twitching • Urinary incontinence There are no treatment options available for Hendra virus. If your horse is diagnosed with Hendra virus, they must be humanely euthanised immediately.

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