May News
Page added:   18th April 2010
Page updated:   8th June 2010
Site Published:  16th April 2010
Last updated:   18th April 2010
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Updated - 16th May 2010
After the launch of this website on the 16th April, there has been a significant increase in the awareness of this deadly issue, particularly in the southern states.  On the 5th May, the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) issued a Press Release warning all horse owners across Australia to be on the look out for Hendra virus cases.

Whilst this press release generated widespread media coverage, it is extremely disappointing to see a peak industry body such as the AVA promoting the extreme 'common' symptoms which encourages people not to consider HeV until the risk of transmission to humans has become extreme.  Also sending mixed messages with statements like:
"The few cases of human Hendra virus infection have been the result of very close contact with horses infected with the virus. Body fluids or secretions from infected animals are likely to contain the virus. 

At the time the people became infected the horses did not appear sick."
This is inaccurate and bordering on scare mongering.  Of the seven known 'recorded' human infections, all had potential heavy exposure to critically ill or dead horses that were later believed or proved to be infected with the virus.  Three of the human cases had direct exposure either performing or assisting with post mortem on the dead horses.

The reality is that all known human infections have occurred when people were either unaware of what Hendra Virus was or had not considered it as a possibility until it was too late. 

The key message must be raising awareness and educating all people in the industry with accurate information.  This is a cultural change that is required, and vital that all people caring for horses adopt good hygiene practices when handling horses, and knowing what precautions to take when handling any sick horses, not waiting until symptoms have progressed to near death. 

If you have not already, I would encourage you to visit the Links page to find valuable links to Guidelines and Fact Sheets on how to minimise the risks to you and your horses.
On Sunday the 9th May, 60 Minutes ran a segment called The Virus Hunters, whilst some saw this as sensationalised journalism, again it raised the profile of Hendra virus and other emerging diseases.  It is unfortunate a little more research and attention to detail was not carried out by the program presenters which no doubt caused some distress to the families of victims when they reported the death of the wrong vet as having worked with the vet nurse that survived and is still struggling with recovery and the unknown.

A full copy of the Virus Hunters transcript can be found on Sixty Minutes website
  To watch the segment click on the image below. 
Thursday the 13th May.   On three occasions now I have been fortunate enough to have been invited to speak on Casey Radio Station in Victoria.  97.7fm Casey Radio run an Equine Program every Thursday morning for 2 hours, their program is also Streamed Live on their website .     Unlike many mainstream media sources that often edit pre-recorded interviews to slot into small news grabs, the Equine Program team at Casey Radio, Geoff Ablett, Sharyn Wyatt and Gary Hartigan provide a fantastic opportunity for guests on the program to speak at length.  

A recent guest on the program was Dr Deborah Middleton of CSIRO Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL), [Dr Middleton's Profile] and with the permission of Casey Radio Station I have uploaded the interview, which is a must listen for all horse owners, veterinarians and people caring for horses.  A small technical glitch missed the introduction and first 30 seconds of this 25 minute interview.  If you haven't got time now, bookmark this page and return later to listen to this interview, it is a must.
13th May 2010 - Interview with Dr Deborah Middleton - on Casey Radio Victoria
Go to Audio Link
Extract from the Transcript:

DR HUME FIELD: Clearly, Hendra virus is the most significant emerging disease threat in Australia at the moment.

LIAM BARTLETT: So far, humans have caught Hendra virus only from horses, not directly from the bats. But Dr Field is taking no chances.

DR HUME FIELD: We avoid contact with any of the body fluid. We wear the double gloves, we don't want urine in the eyes, so we wear the goggles when we're working underneath the animals.

Again I would bring to the Governments attention the extreme precautions that these scientists take when potentially coming in contact with secretions and excretions from flying foxes, yet we the public are told not to worry!

5th May 2010
Hendra virus confirmed in Tewantin Queensland

Biosecurity Queensland is responding to the confirmed report of a Hendra virus case in a horse on the Sunshine Coast.

The Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) has confirmed a positive PCR test result to Hendra virus in an EDTA blood sample taken from the horse by a private veterinarian.

The horse was examined by the veterinarian after the owner reported it was displaying acute onset of neurological signs. The horse was reported as being uncoordinated, demonstrating mouth twitching and being off its food.

Upon veterinary investigation, the horse exhibited normal respiratory and heart rates. The horse was found to be blind. The neurological signs progressed to seizures, the horse was humanely euthanased and buried on the property.

One horse remains on the property and has been subject to sampling by a Biosecurity Queensland veterinary officer this afternoon. The horse is reported as clinically normal.

The property is in quarantine and no horse movements are recorded recently.

A community engagement program has been commenced to advise neighbours of the situation and to provide relevant information.
Updated - 20th May 2010
Biosecurity Queensland have released a new version of the Veterinary Guidelines,Version 4, May 2010. These are the latest guidelines and have significant changes in them.
Breaking news - Governments commit to Hendra trial vaccine - Queensland Primary Industries Minister Tim Mulherin told the ABC the state and federal governments would each provide $300,000 so the CSIRO can run new tests on a vaccine that's been under development.

Dr. Peter Reid, who was the Veterinarian at the cutting edge as the dramatic events of the 1994 Hendra Virus outbreak unfolded, has hailed the announcement as a magnificent result but said that horse trials on the two highly promising candidate vaccines would need to be funded. “Anyone who has been involved in a Hendra Virus case becomes deeply affected by this tragic disease,” he said. “This funding is a vital step towards fulfilling a key recommendation made to the World Health Organization that in order to protect people from becoming infected, vaccination for horses should be prioritized for Hendra control.”

“The vaccine will put Australia at the international forefront in the fight against deadly emerging diseases like Hendra virus. The announcement of additional funding is a huge relief for all those people who have been so active in highlighting the need for the development of a vaccine,” Dr Reid said.

This is fantastic news for all involved, there is still much to do in raising awareness and seeking further funding for all research work into this virus, such as post exposure therapy and stall side testing kits. 

If you haven't already done so, please sign the online petition

Geelong owners told to look for signs of sickness in livestock
Kerri-Ann Hobbs - May 24th, 2010

"We know that the bats are a natural reservoir for the virus in Queensland but at this stage it has never been sighted any where else in the country. Our biggest problem here is transport and any horses coming from the Brisbane area showing respiratory signs is one that I would be very cautious about."

THIS is alarming to see that there is common belief in Victoria that this is only a Queensland problem.   Given that we have seen experienced equine vets in Queensland fooled by this virus and how varied the symptoms can present in horses, I would urge all vets and horse owners across the country to study the various case presentations and be vigilant when handling any sick horse.
Update - 24th May 2010
Update - 27th May 2010
Experimental antibody offered to potential Hendra victims

A Sunshine Coast mother and daughter who were exposed to the deadly Hendra virus have been offered a treatment never officially trialed on humans.     read more......

Thursday 27th May.  The Equine Program team at Casey Radio, Geoff Ablett, Sharyn Wyatt and Gary Hartigan interviewed Dr Peter Reid the private veterinarian that was at the coal face of the disaster unfolding in the stables of Vic Rail at Hendra in 1994.  Sixteen years on and Dr Reid is still passionate about this deadly virus and finding a vaccine and cure.  A very emotional interview reliving the events that unfolded and led to the discovery of Hendra virus.   Thank you once again to the Equine Team at Casey Radio for helping raise awareness.  Go to Audio Link
Exclusive Interview with
Dr Peter Reid - on Casey Radio  27th May 2010

Exclusive Interview with
Dr Deborah Middleton
on Casey Radio 13th May 2010

The Equine Program is streaming live on the World Wide Web at (then click on 'Listen Live') and is heard every Thursday morning between 7:00am and 9:00am.
Update - 30th May 2010
New practical Hendra virus information pack to better protect vets and horse owners -  The most practical Hendra virus information ever produced is available to the State's veterinarians with today's launch of Biosecurity Queensland's new Hendra virus information pack.  Read more....

Qld to stockpile Hendra virus treatment Health authorities are negotiating to have stockpiles of an experimental Hendra virus antiserum available in Queensland as soon as possible.
Queensland Health is negotiating with a US medical research facility for the intellectual rights to fast-track production of the potentially lifesaving antiserum. Trials on ferrets have proven successful but it's not yet proven in humans.   Read more...
May News

Click on topics to jump to:

Update 30th May 2010

New practical Hendra virus information packs

Qld to stockpile experimental drug

Update 28th May 2010

Hendra trial in Qld watched closely

EAD Training for Veterinarians - Bendigo 5th & 6th June

Update 27th May 2010

Experimental antibody offered to potential Hendra Victims

Exclusive interview with
Dr Peter Reid on Casey Radio

Update 24th May 2010

Governments commit to fund  Hendra trial vaccine

Geelong owners to look for signs
of sickness

Update 20th May 2010

New release of DPI Veterinary Guidelines issued today

Hendra virus confirmed in Tewantin - Queensland

Updates added 16th May 2010

Dr Deborah Middleton of CSIRO
on Casey Radio - 13th May 2010

60 Minutes - Virus Hunters
9th May 2010

Hendra warning in Victoria

AVA Press Release

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