Fresh Hendra Fears After Pet Dog Contracts Virus

By: Sarah Fortnum
July 27th, 2011

A new wave of fear has arisen over the deadly Hendra Virus after a family dog tested positive to the disease in Queensland.

The kelpie is believed to have contracted the virus from an infected horse at a quarantined property in the state’s south east.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh is due to hold an emergency meeting with leading scientist and researches today.

“We need to understand better what is happening with this disease,” Ms Bligh said.

“It is relatively unknown and despite the scientific effort to date there are continuing developments that, I think, are very worrying.

“When we understand that better, we’ll be in a better position to protect people.”

The Premier was adamant that she was against the culling of flying foxes, which carry the disease, in the affected regions.

“All the scientific advice is that culling and trying to relocate bats can in fact make the spread of this disease worse,” she said.

This is the first time Hendra has been transferred to an animal other than a horse or human and Queensland’s chief health officer Jeannette Young is encouraging people to keep all animals away from any suspected Hendra-infected horses.

“We are fairly confident this dog obtained the virus from an infected horse,” Dr Young said.

“There were three infected horses on the property involved and we really think this where the dog contracted the virus.

“The advice is very clear that we do need to keep dogs, cats and other animals away from sick horses.”

Unfortunately the infected kelpie, who has seemingly recovered from the illness, will be put down under the strict national Hendra guidelines.

“The virus can come back and can be reactivated,” Dr Young said.

“Unfortunately that’s what we saw in the very first human that was infected.

“It came back 13 months later; they developed the illness and died.”

Despite the new risk, Dr Young is urging pet owners to remain calm.

“We know dogs eat anything and everything and they have been doing that for many, many years and we have not seen Hendra virus in dogs,” she said.

“For a human to become infected, they would have had to have significant contact with bodily secretions that contain the Hendra virus.”

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