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Byron Shire
May 13, 2021

Horse dies from Hendra virus near Muwillumbah

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Inoculation remains the best method of protecting horses against Hendra according to DPI veterinarians. Photo AAP Image/Dave Hunt
Inoculation remains the best method of protecting horses against Hendra according to DPI veterinarians. Photo AAP Image/Dave Hunt

An unvaccinated horse near Murwillumbah has died after contracting the Hendra virus, prompting the  NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) to urge horse owners to remain vigilant.

NSW Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Christine Middlemiss, said the property near Murwillumbah had been placed under movement restrictions by Local Land Services.

‘This is the second confirmed case of Hendra in NSW this year, following a Hendra virus infection in an unvaccinated horse near Lismore last month,’ Dr Middlemiss said.

‘Samples from the horse were sent by a private veterinarian for laboratory analysis at DPI’s Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute (EMAI) and initial test results detected the Hendra virus today.

‘The 14-year-old gelding was initially noticed by the owner to be lethargic and not eating properly.

‘The horse was sampled four days later when it deteriorated, becoming unsteady on its feet and unwilling to move. On examination the horse also had decreased gut sounds, a temperature and poor circulatory function.

‘There has 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.’

Horse owners are encouraged to discuss a Hendra virus vaccination strategy with their veterinarian.

‘Vaccination remains the most effective way of reducing the risk of Hendra virus infection in Horses, but good biosecurity and personal hygiene measures should always be practiced,’ Dr Middlemiss said.

‘Horses should also 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.’

If your horse is unwell, keep people and other animals away from the horse and call your private veterinarian immediately.

If your vet 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 DPI’s website.

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  1. This is our concern with bike paths going along the rail corridor which passes through many farmer’s properties. Biosecurity is a big issue for farmers and bike wheels could easily pick up manure from one area and drop it at other properties.

    This issue hasn’t been discussed as yet by those involved with the rail trail proposal but farmers need to start asking whether the serious impacts on them need to be considered by the State and Federal governments.

    • Hendra is not spread by manure, it is spread through urine and faeces of bats usually into water or feed containers from above, When trains were running on the tracks, some farmers grazed the rail corridor, so the situation would have been the same, rolling through and collecting manure on its wheels and spreading it around, but it didn’t happen. The Rail corridor is owned by the state and therefore doesn’t pass through farmers property, although some farmers have land on both sides of the rail corridor. if you’re not grazing on the rail corridor, then this is not really a plausible risk to live stock.
      I did personally know a farmer that used to let his sick or aged cattle purposely onto the rail corridor and claim compensation for a “prize stud bull” that was killed on the tracks!


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