VETERINARIANS are urging horse owners within Queensland flood-affected regions to take preventative measures against the deadly hendra virus because of a potential for increased risk of outbreaks following the recent floods.
- The hendra virus occurs naturally in flying foxes, and horses are thought to contract it by ingesting feed or water contaminated with flying fox body fluids and excretions.
- Flying foxes are more likely to excrete hendra virus if they are stressed, and the loss of food due to the floods can increase stress levels resulting in a higher risk of viral shedding.
- The migration of stressed bats to non-flood affected regions could also result in the spread of the virus.
President of the Australian Veterinary Association Dr Ben Gardiner said it was vital that veterinarians and those who work with horses took precautions, such as wearing protective clothing and practiced good hygiene, to safeguard against infection.
"The recently-released hendra horse vaccine is also a significant step toward breaking the cycle of hendra virus transmission, as it can stop the horse from both developing the disease and passing it on," Dr Gardiner said.
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