IN THE year since the launch of the Hendra virus vaccine, Equivac HeV, there has been growing support within the industry to encourage vaccination and invest in further research, including discussion around the merits of mandatory vaccination.
These messages have been captured in a new documentary titled, "A safer tomorrow: our stand against Hendra virus" that has been released to mark the first anniversary of the release of the vaccine and to celebrate the organisations and individuals behind the vaccine's development and manufacture.
The virus, which is spread from flying foxes to horses and then to humans, was first identified in Queensland in 1994, when a trainer and 20 of his horses died or were euthanised because of Hendra virus. Since then, the virus has killed three more people and about 70 horses in Queensland and northern New South Wales, with the
disease spreading south.
Along with Racing Queensland, leaders from within Equestrian Australia, CSIRO, The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) and the Queensland Horse Council, are joining a groundswell of support within the horse industry to mandate vaccination against Hendra virus.
Equestrian Australia chairman and an equine veterinarian, Dr Warwick Vale, said he supported mandatory vaccination at high risk events.
"I think that the events community will come to realise that the single best tool for risk mitigation of this disease is vaccination," he said.
University of Melbourne Centre for Equine Infectious Diseases director Associate Professor James Gilkerson says Hendra is an endemic disease, and is not going away.
"If you're worried about a disease that is carried by bats, the best thing you can do is make sure that the population of most concern, in this case horses, is highly vaccinated," he said.
Although some have called for bat colonies to be controlled, the scientific community has discounted this option, because bats control insect populations, such as disease-carrying mosquitoes.
In the face of the threat of the disease moving south, researchers are instead concentrating on rapid diagnosis and prevention, and ways to control an outbreak.
"A safer tomorrow: our stand against Hendra virus" Hendra documentary can be viewed here.