With the coming of spring, it’s goodbye flu season and Hendra virus season too, with most cases of infection occurring between the months of May and August.
Until this year, the furthest south that a horse had been infected was Kempsey on the NSW Mid North Coast, in 2013. This year it turned up in Scone, approximately 218 km further south, as the bat flies.
Samples taken from the infected animal in Scone were initially tested at the Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute and then sent onto the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL), the national biocontainment laboratory in Geelong. Further testing at AAHL confirmed the presence of Hendra virus.
Fortunately, the detection has been isolated and there have been no other reported cases in NSW this year.
Since a horse may be infected before they show any sign of illness, it is important good hygiene and biosecurity practices are routinely used for all horse contact.
In addition, Animal Health Australia advise that due to Hendra virus being transmitted by droplet, there is no safe exposure level to the virus and the most stringent infection control practices must be adhered to when interacting with an animal which is suspected of being infected.
Vaccinating horses is considered the most effective way to reduce the risk of exposure to Hendra virus.