Hendra Virus Outbreak Threatens Queensland

By: Sarah Fortnum
June 29th, 2011

Queensland is currently in the midst of a Hendra virus scare after a horse south of Brisbane tested positive to the deadly virus.

The horse died at a Beaudesert property on Monday, however, it was not established the horse had passed away from the Hendra virus until last night.

Deputy Premier Paul Lucas was quick to confirm the Hendra virus report.

“A horse that has died near Beaudesert has tested positive for Hendra virus,” Mr Lucas said.

Mr Lucas said that Queensland Health is currently taking all precautions to ensure the virus does not spread.

“Queensland Health will be out in the community there (and) at the farm talking to locals, talking to people at the farm site,” he said.

“At this stage we only know of one horse and that horse is deceased as a result of Hendra virus and that is a positive result.

“The first priority will be getting out there and talking to people on the farm and surrounding neighbours.

“The tests only came through in relation to the testing of the Hendra virus but it is something we will be treating seriously.”

Mr Lucas asked for people to remain calm, insisting that the risk of contracting the virus was very small.

“The risk in the community from Hendra virus is very, very low but you know in the past those people who have contracted it, it becomes an extremely serious matter,” he said.

Rick Symons, chief veterinary officer of Biosecurity Queensland, said that two separate properties were currently being quarantined as a result of the outbreak.

“When the horse was sick the owner took it to [their] property on which it died,” Dr Symons said.

“And we understand there were horses on the other property as well.

“So there are actually two properties involved in this.”

Biosecurity Queensland is currently maintaining a large presence at the two properties involved; ensuring there is no way the virus could have travelled any further.

“We have [Biosecurity Queensland personnel] on the property to look at the other horses there and take samples from them,” Dr Symons said.

“We will also talk with the owners to find out what animals have moved on and off the property, to clarify the clinical signs of the virus and the history of the horse.

“We will also be talking to neighbours as well to check out their horses and give them information.

“It’s a full-on day on the property.”

Dr Symons said that the results of the initial positive test had been rigorously analysed.

“(The vet) took samples for Hendra testing and the horse subsequently died the next day,” Dr Symons said.

“He got the [test] results yesterday that indicated the horse had Hendra virus.

“We did a check test on that and that was confirmed last night.”

Erica Bates, owner of Woodwins horse stud in Beaudesert, stressed that this latest Hendra incidence was not likely to debilitate the industry like Equine Influenza did in 2007-08.

“Hendra is a fragile virus, it is not like equine influenza, which was absolutely terrifying, because it was carried in the wind,” she said.

“Of course this case is a concern, because it is a case and there hasn’t been one here before, but it can happen anywhere.

“It’s important not to panic.”

Racing in south-east Queensland is set to continue as normal for the rest of the week.

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