North QLD Hendra Death Sparks National Concern

By: Ryan Clark
July 13th, 2011

The Hendra outbreak continues to intensify in Queensland with bio-security officers becoming increasingly worried about the spread of the disease.

The virus which was once contained to a few properties in the south-west has now sprung up in north Queensland as well.

While the two outbreaks are not linked, chief bio-security officer Jim Thompson says Hendra has claimed yet another victim.

“We have had confirmation of our fourth Hendra case in Queensland. This case is a little bit different than the others in that it’s in north Queensland, west of Cairns,” Thompson said.

“The horse was found to be sick on Sunday and was visited by a vet when samples were taken.

“The horse was depressed, wobbly and showed neurological symptoms and died on Monday.”

Samples were taken from the horse on Monday and the Bio-Security Queensland lab tested the samples yesterday and found a presence of the Hendra virus.

The property just out of Cairns has now been placed under quarantine and movements in and out locked down.

“We’ll make an assessment of the issues at that property,” he said.

“We believe that there are a significant number of horses on the property, probably in the vicinity of 30.”

According to Queensland’s chief medical officer Jeannette Young her team is still not sure how many people have come into contact with the horse.

It poses a greater risk than the earlier discovered cases though given that the property is a tourist riding centre.

Known as ‘Blazing Saddles’, it is owned by Liberal National Party State Government candidate Michael Trout.

Both Trout, his brother and four of their staff are awaiting results from their Hendra tests.

This latest case comes as Racing NSW prepares themselves for a potential rise in cases across their state as well.

New chairman Alan Bell wasted no time in warning all owners and trainer to be vigilant about the Hendra threat.

Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys said the area around Randwick was of particular danger.

“Considerable numbers of these animals (flying foxes) are known to visit the Randwick racecourse precinct to feed on the fruits of the many fig trees on course,” he said.

“We are urging trainers at Randwick to keep feed and water bins under cover while keeping horses away from fig trees scattered around the stables area.”

In less than a month at least seven horses are known to have died from the disease in Queensland with 10 properties under quarantine.

The spread of the cases across north eastern Australia though are leading to growing fears of a repeat to the equine influenza outbreak which shut down the entire racing industry and proved fatal in humans as well.

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