Site Published:  16th April 2010
Last updated:   18th April 2010
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To date this website has concentrated on exposing the animal infections of Hendra virus, now it is time to shine the light firmly on the human aspects, and the Queensland Health Department's disgraceful handling of people exposed to the virus.

Mindful of the fact that people involved in Hendra virus outbreaks are traumatised, nobody wishes to cause any further anxiety by exposing this side of Queensland's best kept secret.  However, having talked to so many people directly involved and treated with sheer contempt by the authorities, it is felt that this must be done in a bid to get the authorities to start taking this seriously.     In light of the significant public health concerns over this issue, documents released under Right to Information Applications (at significant processing cost) have been uploaded only to substantiate the concerns I will highlight.

July 2008, the worst outbreak of Hendra since the original case in 1994, resulting in more than one human infection and claimed the life of Veterinarian Dr Ben Cunneen.  Queensland authorities were under intense media scrutiny and calls came from every corner for a full panel public inquiry into their handling of this deadly outbreak. 

Queensland Health opted to conduct their own 'internal review', as can be seen in the document Hendra - Operational Debrief dated Monday 27 October 2008, this was nothing more than a debrief, scheduled to take 4 hours and wrapped up in 3 1/2 hours.  A teleconference between QH & DPI&F to discuss the disaster unfolding at Redlands and nobody thought to take minutes!  No decision at debrief in regards to who would be responsible for progressing and prioritising the actions identified.  It is no wonder we saw the debacle repeated in 2009!   The debrief also appears to only discuss the individuals that were directly involved at the Redlands clinic and fails to address the dozens of people that were exposed or potentially exposed to horses that had died or been released from the clinic prior to the detection of the outbreak, nor does it discuss the concerns of the individuals involved in the Proserpine outbreak.

Kate Purvis, the horse owner that lost 4 horses in the Proserpine outbreak (2008) was so disgusted with the Bligh Government's handling of their case, and greatly distressed at the plight of the Cawarral people she wrote to the Premier on the 21st August 09.  To read the full letter click here... For an insight to how Queensland Health treated these people that had been exposed to confirmed Hendra positive horses...
Page updated:   1st June 2010
 
Page 32 File 2 - A body then turned up at the John Tonge Centre (the mortuary for Queensland Health Forensic and Scientific Services) and was tested on the 29th May 2008, one tissue sample, RNA Taqman - Not Detected.  For those who have not read the Not Detected does not mean Negative page, I suggest you do! 

To add to the concern with regard to the adequacy of testing on one tissue sample and dismissing this as a possible Hendra death, also now uploaded on the Pathology Reports Page, you will find full post mortem reports on 3 confirmed Hendra positive horses. 

Thomas (Proserpine 2008), only 8 of 24 tissue samples returned a positive for Hendra virus.

Tamworth (Redlands), only 9 of 24 tissue samples returned a positive for Hendra virus.

Barbie (Redlands) euthanased on humane grounds the day after clinical symptoms appeared and already confirmed positive by PCR.  Only 11 of 16 tissue samples collected at post mortem returned a positive result.

Alarming that Queensland Health run one test on one tissue sample and dismiss a human death!


Page 47 File No. 2, another body turned up at the John Tonge Centre and was tested on the 30th September 2008 (a month after Ben Cunneen died from Hendra virus).  One blood sample again Taqman - Not Detected!

When you consider the table below, the Taqman test was not detecting the virus in all samples consistently, nor was it detecting it in the blood of the fatal case at the time of death, surely the authorities cannot deem running one inconclusive test on a dead human as adequate investigation into this deadly virus?






















In the Queensland Health Debrief document it states on page 3:

Of the human contacts, 18 developed symptoms requiring clinical review.
Two people tested PCR positive after developing a flu like illness.

Having been in contact with many people involved in outbreaks, and having been extensively involved with trying to get accountability, answers and action from one Department (Biosecurity Qld), I began requesting various documents from Queensland Health.   Now uploaded on the Pathology Reports Page are two files, 479 pages of pathology reports on human testing for the period 1 January 2008 to February 2010 as released under Right To Information applications, which highlight many alarming facts.

Background - Dr Frank Beard a Senior Director, of the Communicable Disease Branch of Queensland Health, on two separate occasions informed stakeholders that attended a meeting with top Government officials on the 15th January 09, including myself, that the Queensland Health protocol requires a direct connection/link between a human and a confirmed Hendra positive horse before testing will be considered.

Queensland Health do not routinely test for Hendra virus infection in humans, as stated in Kate's letter, she and others had to plead their case to even get tested having been exposed to confirmed positive horses.  In August 2009 the deadly outbreak at Cawarral (Rockhampton) which claimed the life of Veterinarian Dr Alister Rodgers, despite heavy exposure to horses confirmed positive to the virus, the departments attitude was go and see your local GP to get tested.  Intense media attention thrust upon the Health Department resulted in swift action and a public apology. 

With this in mind the following pathology reports raise interesting questions as to how many human infections and deaths there have really been from this deadly virus, and how quickly Queensland authorities dismiss infections and deaths with inadequate testing procedures!


Page 27-28 File No. 2 a patient in Nambour Hospital in May 2008 (prior to the Redlands outbreak) tested for Hendra Virus two days apart, returning an equivocal result on the second test, moved into intensive care and tested again the same day (looking for antibodies only).  Given our knowledge that Queensland Health require a connection with a confirmed positive horse before testing is considered, someone certainly had a high suspicion this patient was exposed to Hendra virus, but to which confirmed horse?
 
 
 
 
Click to enlarge
Also considering the table highlighting various testing on confirmed human cases and the inconsistencies in the virus being detected, sifting thru the pathology reports it is evident that there is absolutely no protocol in which samples are tested, which tests are run, nor consistent follow  up testing.  These reports also show that more than 20 individuals have returned equivocal results, more than 10 have returned equivocal results on more than one testing date, so it would appear that if individuals do not go onto develop natural antibodies to this virus (which they know so little about), then two or more weak positives makes a negative?  One of several reports that look like this...
Equivocal tests, and reports that state this assay is under development and not currently endorsed!!

Everyone that I have spoken to that were exposed to Hendra horses, regardless of whether they developed symptoms or not, did not develop antibodies to the virus yet were told not to donate blood for 12 months.

The public were told of two individuals hospitalised, which we all know were confirmed positive to the virus.  At least a further thirteen individuals were hospitalised at the time of the 2008 outbreaks, some in Intensive Care Units in various hospitals.  Ten individuals either requiring further medical support (hospitalised) after the two outbreaks in 2008, or possibly exposed to other critically ill horses and receiving testing for HeV.  Twelve Individuals were hospitalised in 2009 and being tested for HeV. 

Where and how are they all after being exposed to this virus?  One individual that had heavy exposure to blood and body fluids of a horse involved in one of the outbreaks, was very ill with fever and flu like symptoms shortly after exposure, testing indicated he did not develop antibodies.   No prior medical conditions, he has now had three stays in hospital with serious heart problems that the specialist believes was a result of having been in contact with a major virus.

Virus riddle vexes grieving daughter - read more....
April 2006 - Tania Benholz, aged 53, died at home on her property which was adjacent to the flying fox colony that has been implicated in two of the recorded Hendra outbreaks 2006 & 2007, her cat also died within a few days, six horses also lived on the property.  No prior health problems that could have caused such a sudden death.  The Autopsy report states 'cause of death undetermined',

Ms Cresswell met brick walls with the two Departments charged with handling this deadly virus.  Biosecurity and Queensland Health, both were quick to dismiss the possibility on nothing more than the fact there was no sick horse on the property at the time, or a link to a confirmed positive horse.   Testing of the 6 horses on the property was refused, despite Ms Cresswell offering to pay for the testing.  Having tried to pursue the issue for 2 years, at the time of the Redlands outbreak in 2008 Ms Cresswell joined forces with a number of other stakeholders in our plight to get answers and protocols changed.

Authorities refused to investigate this unexplained death, the official from Queensland Health involved failed to even obtain a copy of blood pathology reports from the external laboratory, on samples taken approximately 48 hours prior to her death.  At a meeting with officials in November 2009, we were told no samples existed for testing and the post mortem report did not indicate anything suggestive of Hendra Virus infection.  (At the time of this post mortem, nobody was looking for Hendra virus.)   Dr Margaret Young of Queensland Health stated fresh tissue or blood was required to test for this virus.   Why then are the scientists able to determine valuable information from histology samples?  I personally requested that the fixed tissue samples held by the Coroner be forwarded to AAHL for examination and offered to pay for this to be done.  This request was refused and instead a Queensland official examined the slides and dismissed Hendra Virus as being involved.

Queensland Health authorities hide behind the statements they trot out every time an outbreak is in the media "we know so little", "we don't know".  They need to invest significant resources into further research and testing.   Statements we do not want to continue to hear "there is no evidence of bat to human or human to human transmission"  their testing and protocols are so inadequate they are never likely to find evidence.

It was only a matter of time, and now with this current outbreak in Tewantin on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland we have a mother and young child exposed to this deadly virus.  Ms Rebecca Day and her daughter Mollie underwent highly experimental treatment last week after Queensland authorities determined they were at 'real risk' of developing full blown Hendra virus. 

Queensland Health is negotiating with authorities in the United States in a bid to gain intellectual property rights to a treatment for the Hendra virus. 

More to come on this page...




Thomas - Proserpine 2008

Thomas - Proserpine 2008

Click images to enlarge

Click images to enlarge

Proserpine 2008 (July)
4 horses died or were euthanased, three were confirmed to be infected with Hendra, no samples available for testing on the first death initially thought to be snake bite. 

Thomas displayed virtually no clinical symptoms, he survived Hendra infection but was euthanased 4th September, under National Guidelines for control of Hendra Virus. 

These photos clearly show the respect that the scientists have for this deadly virus.
If you have not already done so, please support the online petition for vital funding into all aspects of this deadly virus, show the Government we do not accept their contempt for this deadly virus.




To Sign the Petition Click Here