What all Horse Owners ought to Know about Hendra Virus and Vaccination
What is Hendra?
Hendra Virus is a zoonotic disease which means it can be transmitted from horses to humans during close contact with an infected horse.
Although it is a rare disease, the death rate related to infection is very high – about 50% in humans and more than 70% in horses.
The natural host for the Hendra Virus is the flying fox (Fruit Bat) and bats carrying Hendra Virus have been identified in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, Northern Territory and most recently – South Australia.
Hendra virus is transmitted from bats to horses and there is also a risk of horse to horse transmission and of course from horse to human.
As vets this gives cause for concern here in Victoria because we know that many horses travel extensively to compete in interstate events, thereby potentially increasing the risk of contracting the disease. Horses are also bought and sold across borders so we’re not as protected from the disease as we’d like to think.
Thankfully however, a vaccine for the Hendra Virus was released in November 2012.
This has come as a great relief to all us veterinarians who are regularly called out to treat sick horses with symptoms not unlike what you’d expect from a Hendra infection.
As such, we’d prefer the peace of mind and we’re sure you would also, that we are able to treat your horse without concern about the risk to our own health or yours.Hendra
Vaccine For Horses
We do not want to be in a position where we would refuse a visit to your sick horse that is showing Hendra like symptoms so please take up this opportunity to vaccinate your horse now. In addition the advice from the Australian Veterinary Association lawyers is that because a vaccine is now available, if a person catches Hendra from your horse, insurance policies will not protect you from a lawsuit.
Apart from treating sick animals, our responsibility as veterinarians is to keep you informed about diseases and help prevent against them wherever and however possible. We are particularly responsible for informing you of diseases that can risk human life so please take this issue seriously.
With this in mind, advising all our equine clients about the availability of the Hendra Vaccine will become a standard part of every equine consultation.
Naturally not all horses will be at equal risk and we are particularly concentrating on competition horses and others which have travel or will be traveling interstate on an occasional or regular basis.
Vaccination Protocol Summary
Unlike other equine vaccinations the Hendra Vaccine is available only via special permit to vets who have undergone the necessary accreditation.
- You cannot buy the vaccine and vaccinate your horse yourself.
- To receive the vaccine, your horse must also be Microchipped so proof of vaccination can be entered into a central database
Initial vaccination plus a booster vaccination in exactly 3 weeks time
Vaccination at 6 monthly intervals according to current research data. In the future this may become 12 months.
For the latest updates on Horse Health issues including Hendra visit Health for Horses