Horse owners in stampede for hendra vaccine

Dr Louise Cosgrove prepares to vaccinate a mare against the hendra virus with owner Maryanne Gough at a Lowood property.
Dr Louise Cosgrove prepares to vaccinate a mare against the hendra virus with owner Maryanne Gough at a Lowood property. Claudia Baxter

MORE horses in the Somerset Region are likely to contract the hendra virus, equine veterinarian Louise Cosgrove warned yesterday.

The warning came after a horse died of the bat-borne virus three days ago.

The infected thoroughbred broodmare was on an agistment property on Lukritz Rd in Tarampa. Twenty more horses from the same property were tested.

Dr Cosgrove, who works at Exclusively Equine Veterinary Services in Hatton Vale, said she had been inundated with calls.

She said panicked horse owners in the Somerset region were lining up to have their animals vaccinated immediately.

But Dr Cosgrove said it was still likely more horses would become infected as it could take at least a month for the hendra vaccine to take effect.

"This recent case of hendra has definitely made the community aware of the importance of having their horses vaccinated," she said.

"However it takes two separate doses and about 42 days for horses to be completely vaccinated against hendra.

"So while owners are waiting for the vaccine to give protection, they need to be vigilant with their minimisation of contamination.

"Fortunately hendra is extremely fragile and sunlight kills the virus after about 20 minutes."

She said the Lowood area was home to a colony of bats on the river out of Lowood, towards Fernvale.

"There are higher chances of cases at this time of year, too, as these are the months where bats fight for food and get stressed.

"When that happens they excrete more of the virus in their saliva, urine and faeces."

As a precaution, Dr Cosgrove urged horse owners not to keep their water and feed troughs under trees.

Somerset councillor Jim Madden said the hendra discovery had distressed many residents in Lowood, a nearby town considered by many as the horse capital of south-east Queensland.

"A lot of people move to this area for the opportunity to raise horses," he said. "Nowadays you see more horses than cattle."

To further encourage the voluntary uptake of the hendra vaccine, the company that supplies the vaccine is currently providing vets the second dose for free.

The offer, which ends on July 31, will help reduce costs for horse owners. For more information on hendra virus, visit biosecurity.qld.gov.au

Minimise contamination

  •  Bring horses in at night into covered enclosures or night holding paddocks with no trees in them.
  •  Do not use feed that might be attractive to flying foxes if they are known to be in the area such as apples or carrots.
  •  Keep any sick horse isolated from other horses, people and animals until you have obtained a veterinary opinion.


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