Horse owners are being urged to vaccinate their animals against the Hendra virus after an unvaccinated horse had to be euthanised near Lismore recently.
The NSW Department of Primary Industries chief veterinary officer Dr Christine Middlemiss said horse owners should take all steps they possibly can to reduce the risk of their horses becoming infected with Hendra virus.
She said the owners of the 11-year-old gelding at a property near Lismore had noticed the animal was lethargic, not eating properly, and was wobbly on its feet.
Samples from the horse were sent by a private veterinarian for laboratory analysis at DPI’s Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute and when the virus was confirmed, the horse was put down last Saturday.
Dr Middlemiss said there had been a case of Hendra virus in the area before.
‘All known Hendra virus cases have occurred in Queensland or northern NSW, but cases could occur wherever there are flying foxes or in horses that had recent contact with flying foxes prior to movement,’ she said.
She said horse owners should discuss a vaccination strategy with their private veterinarian, as vaccination remains the most effective way of reducing the risk of Hendra Virus infection in horses.
‘Vaccinating your horse also protects your animals, and you and your family,’ she said.
‘It’s also important that good biosecurity and personal hygiene measures are practiced.
‘Horses should be kept away from flowering and fruiting trees that are attractive to bats.
‘Do not place feed and water under trees and cover feed and water containers with a shelter so they cannot be contaminated from above.’
Hendra virus can cause a range of symptoms in horses. Usually there is a sudden fever and either respiratory or neurological illness.
Dr Middlemiss said if your horse is unwell, people and other animals should be kept away from the animal and your private veterinarian immediately.
If your veterinarian is unavailable you can call a District Veterinarian with the Local Land Services or the Animal Biosecurity Emergency Hotline on 1800 675 888.
For more information about Hendra, visit the DPI website.