CVO Bulletin to Horse Owners: Hendra virus case at Murwillumbah

Hendra Virus

Hendra Virus

An unvaccinated 19 year old gelding at Murwillumbah died on 20 June 2015 after a short illness. The attending veterinarian advised that there was a slight nasal discharge when he collected samples from the dead horse. Laboratory testing of all the samples were positive to Hendra virus.

There has been minimal human and companion animal contact with the horse. Three other horses were in contact with the dead horse and they all remain well. One of the horses had moved from the property recently and that property has also been quarantined.

The dead horse has been buried and the property has been quarantined. All in contact horses are being tested and vaccinated and remain under observation.

The case is being managed by the North Coast Local Land Service.

A flying fox roost is located in the district.

Hendra Vaccination

Vaccination of horses against Hendra virus is the single most effective way of reducing the risk of Hendra virus infection in both horses and humans.

Human infection and deaths have occurred following high-level exposure to body fluids from infected horses. Vaccinating horses is an important measure to prevent this occurring and provides a public health and workplace health and safety benefit.

Reminder to Horse Owners

  1. This is the season when Hendra virus is more common in NSW i.e. the cooler months of the year.
  2. Horse owners should talk to their vet about vaccinating their horses for Hendra virus to protect both the horses and their human handlers.
  3. The symptoms of Hendra virus infection are not specific. Horses may be listless, feverish, show signs of colic, neurological signs (wobbly, head tilt, unusual gait etc), respiratory symptoms, abnormal behaviour or die suddenly.
  4. Owners with sick horses should contact their local veterinarian who will notify a Local Lands Service inspector or an inspector with DPI if they consider the case highly suspect for Hendra virus. If your veterinarian is unavailable, and the horse’s illness is progressing rapidly, call the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.
  5. Owners should be aware of the risks associated with handling sick horses. The signs of Hendra virus are quite variable so all sick horses should be handled cautiously and carefully and with as little contact as possible.
  6. Children, domestic pets and other companion horses should not contact sick horses.

Management of suspect Hendra cases

  • Always use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when handling sick horses
  • DO NOT allow sick horses to be handled by children or other people.
  • Isolate sick horses from pets or other horses.
  • DO NOT allow dogs or other animals to contact sick or dead horses. Keep them away from the sick horse and its body fluids.
  • DO NOT move sick horses to another area as this may spread the infection.

Further information

The DPI website contains further information – Hendra virus.

Other contact details include:

NSW Health has a factsheet that has important information regarding human health risks for Hendra virus – Hendra factsheet or phone NSW Health on 1300 066 055.

Work Health and Safety Responsibilities (phone Workcover Authority of NSW 131050).

Read more about Hendra & Horses