Site Published: 16th April 2010
Last updated: 18th April 2010
August 2010 News
Page added: 18th April 2010
Page updated: 16th July 2011
Update - 13th August 2010
Coalition offers hendra kits for vets
August 13, 2010 - 11:09AM
The Coalition has promised to make available a hendra virus 'personal protective package' for large animal vets and their field staff.
Vet and WA Liberal Senator Chris Back says up to $180,000 would be made available from within the Department of Agriculture current budget for the $30 kits which contractive protective gear and information. Read more ....
28th August - Sadly this morning my daughters beautiful pony Allemande (Jet) passed away.
This is them at the recent PCAQ State Dressage Championships were they were second in the zone teams and 4th overall.
I thought I would share our story of our brush with the Hendra virus.
Jet showed no abnormal signs yesterday morning when I fed him an took his rugs off, he was looking for his breakfast and I noticed nothing out of the ordinary.
Update - 30th August 2010
When I got home yesterday the girls had gotten home late from school and were rushing to get ready to take the horses down to our local indoor to ride and they had only just grabbed the three ponies out of the paddock. It was immediately obvious that something was not right with Jet, his breathing was laboured and he had loose manure through his tail. Despite the manure his other symptoms appeared colic like, we were immediately on the phone to the vet, My daughter suggested I still drop her younger sister down to ride as there was nothing she could do and we had a wait for the vet.
I cannot tell you how much during the course of what happened next I regret taking that horse off the property.
The vet arrived and almost immediately considered that given that we have bat colonies around us and his symptoms were likely to be the Hendra Virus and not colic.
By this stage his breathing was very laboured - his gums where a shocking colour dark purple almost and he had a temp of 38.4.
We had to suit up in full biosuits and the only thing the vet was able to do was to administer antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and buscopan. The risk of anything else was too dangerous given the likely diagnosis of Hendra. At this point the vet was very positive that is what we were dealing with.
We were already dealing with a very sick pony who in any other circumstance she would have hospitalised but of course no one will take a horse with Hendra.
She was on the phone to the testing lab a number of times but despite her best efforts we could not get the samples tested last night and I made arrangements to deliver the sample myself this morning to get it there as soon as possible as they could not guarantee what time there normal courier would deliver it.
As it turned out, even that did not help to speed up the testing as the lab technician (who was lovely) said they could not start testing it will later until they saw what else came in (ie if anything else was a higher priority) as once they started the testing the samples could not be left) at that point he thought we would have an answer by 5:30 pm this afternoon, I told him I was not sure the pony had that long .
By the time I got back from the lab Jet had deteriorated was spending most of the time lying down, still had a temp of 38.4 and his breathing seemed worse. at this point I thought we probably needed to consider putting him down regardless. He seemed disoriented and was obviously not comfortable. Our instructions were to go near him only when necessary and only when fully suited up, I can't tell you how heartbreaking it is to see your pony like that and not to be able to offer any comfort. I phoned the vet and she was almost 100% certain we were dealing with Hendra but that there was nothing more that could be done until we got the results - to not go near the pony but of course to call if we felt we needed to put him down.
He did not make it another hour. He took himself around a corner and was gone. We are utterly devastated.
I was so terrified for the 3 other horses we have on our property and for my daughter who had been handling Jet before we commenced the biosecruity measures - and myself I guess.
We had been informed that if the sample was positive we would all be tested etc etc, at this point I could not stand to wait that long for the results on the pony and then have to wait for results on us as well. I contacted a local medical centre to see if they would do blood tests, they suggested we wait until we got the ponies results. I then phoned the vet and asked what she suggested re ourselves and she that they had been given almost no information on what should happen re humans who were at risk she suggested we ring 13 Health who suggested that we go straight to the emergency department at our local hospital to be tested.
On arrival at the ED I informed the receptionist that we had a high risk of having been exposed to the Hendra virus - I expected they would isolate us - first misconception. We were triaged quickly - they took blood pressure, temps and oxygen stats then the nurse went of to see if anyone knew anything about Hendra - to which we heard No. She came back a couple of minutes later, said our signs were good we had no symptoms we should go home and they would ring a few days later to check how we were. I asked could they do blood tests and she told me there was no point as they could not do any treatment anyway. 10 mins later we were on our way back home.
I am surprised my blood pressure was not through the roof as I was feeling so stressed and a little in shock I think. At this stage we thought we had lost one pony already to Hendra, had 3 more at high risk, ourselves at risk and becuase I had allowed my younger daughter to ride last night potentially put our friends and up to another 10 horses at risk.
Those friends have been amazingly supportive (from a distance until we got the results)despite my poor decision putting them at risk. They pulled out of a comp they were heading to so not to increase the risks.
About an hour after we arrived home from the hospital I did get a call from someone in Qld Health in response to our visit to the hospital which surprised me considerably as they were so blase about it at the hospital. She sought full details of what had happened since we noticed the pony was sick and was just requesting details to speak to our vet when the vet rang to say that the rest results had come back NEGATIVE.
I can honestly say the feeling of a huge weight lifting off your shoulders is a real one, I cannot explain the feeling only to say that the feeling of elation at this news which was so at odds with the pain of losing our beautiful pony was very strange.
I have no idea what further steps may have progresed from the call from QLD Health as my daughter told her the vet said the test results were negative and I didn't speak to them again.
My distress this morning must have made an impression on the poor lab techician because we got the test results at least 2 hours before the earliest time he said we could expect them. My heartfelt thanks to him as he saved us another couple of hours of agony waiting.
We have still lost our pony but at least for the moment the others are safe. We suspect that the cause of death was a snake bite but the vet did not consider an autopsy would give us a conclusive answer. We will watch the other closely and the vet is coming back on Monday to check each of them over.
This has been the longest day of my life. I must say I have been aware of Hendra especially as there are so many bats all around this area and I was aware of not feeding the horses where they roost etc etc but I am sad to say I did not even consider it before I rang the vet, I put it down to Colic.
All we could hear last night while we were treating Jet were bats in the trees all around, I knew they were around but had not stopped to realise how many. On Monday we will be making arrangements to remove whatever trees we are allowed to remove, I will be reorganising my paddocks - something I have been wanting to do for a long time anyway so we can have better isolation paddocks and we will be stepping up our diligence even more around feeding places etc.
We lived a nightmare that I am sure more and more horse owners are and will be facing even more in the future- if you have bats in your area and your horse as any symptoms consistent with the virus then the treatment you can access is very limited.
Jets condition was already very bad when we found him and the vet does not think that we could have done anything anyway but it is not difficult to imagine circumstances where life saving treatment will not be available because of the threat of the virus.
To round out the nightmare is that testing is not a priority for this virus - is something else "more important" comes in it gets put on the back burner and there is no interest in fast tracking the results.
The hospital was not interested in testing us leaving us with additional hours of stress wondering if we had been exposed.
We have had great information provided to us on this forum on this Virus and I admit to have been guilty of reading what I could when I have time - I honestly thought I was reasonably well informed - but I certainly was not prepared for the reality that presented itself to us last night.
Please folks arm yourself with as much information as you can, look very closely at your property especially those in south east Queensland where the bats seem to be everywhere and when you think you have taken enough precautions - double them.
Our nightmare could have been so much worse. RIP Jet
More records of flying foxes found in Tasmania - 30th August
Residents in Tasmania have reported an increase in sightings of the grey-headed flying-fox, with the majority of sightings occurring in the north of the state. Michael Driessen, Senior Zoologist from the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment said flying-foxes are rare in Tasmania with only nine individuals reported in Tasmania since records were first taken. Read more...
Another family wants to share their brush with Hendra virus. Thanks Amanda and condolences for the loss of your pony.