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Aust Horse Owners Put On Hendra Virus Alert

Thursday, 5th May 2011

Australian horse owners "are being warned to prepare for the deadly Hendra virus season" reported The Age. Since it was discovered in 1994, the bat-borne virus "has killed 4 of the 7 humans who have been infected & caused the deaths of more than 40 horses". The newspaper noted: "Humans contract the disease from horses; there has been no human-to-human transmission of the disease, nor direct transmission from bats to humans." The majority of outbreaks have occurred during June-October; however last year a horse at Tewantin in Queensland contracted the virus in May. The Australian Veterinary Association "is warning horse owners & vets to take precautions & be on the lookout for any Hendra symptoms". AVA president Dr Barry Smyth said human infections "have been the result of close contact with the bodily fluids & secretions of infected horses" & emphasised: "The risk can be greatly reduced by adopting good hygiene practices as a matter of routine & taking increased precautions around any sick horse. It is also important to wash your hands with soap & water regularly before, during & after handling horses & minimise contact with your horse if it is unwell. So far cases of Hendra infection have been restricted to Queensland & NSW, but there is potential for the disease wherever there are flying foxes." Preventative measures include "placing feed & water under cover & away from trees which flying foxes may use to roost, not leaving out food scraps that could attract bats & keeping horses away from fields where the marsupials are active."

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