LOCAL horse owners who travel to equine shows and events should seriously consider vaccinating their horses, a Tamworth vet has warned following the state’s first Hendra virus fatality for the year.
Early this week, it was revealed a 31-year-old stockhorse had died from Hendra at a Murwillumbah property, which is now under quarantine, with a number of people being monitored for signs of the disease.
Tamworth Equine Veterinary Centre veterinarian Stuart Keller said while the local horse population was not at high risk at present, vaccination was a wise option if people regularly attended equine events.
“You don’t know whether horses coming to that gathering are all vaccinated or not,” he said.
Vaccination was expensive though, particularly for those with more than a few horses.
“The current recommendation is for vaccinations at six-monthly intervals – and for people with up to 20 horses it gets very costly,” he said.
If that was the case, he said, an owner might choose not to keep all their horses vaccinated all the time.
“The situation will change in the blink of an eye (though) if we have a clinical case west of the ranges,” Dr Keller said.
For the momen,t however, despite the presence of flying fox populations and high numbers of horses, areas of NSW west of the Great Dividing Range had yet to record a case.
“The ability of the virus to survive outside its host is quite limited – you can kill it with hot, soapy water,” Dr Keller said.
“It probably explains why it’s only presenting in coastal areas in winter. It probably has a very narrow survival range with regard to temperature range and humidity.”
DPI NSW deputy chief veterinarian Therese Wright said the virus was transmitted via body fluids of flying foxes and winter was traditionally the highest-risk time of year for it to manifest.
While only coastal areas of NSW had been affected at this point, she said, that didn’t mean horse owners shouldn’t be vigilant, recommending vaccination and strict hygiene measures with food and water troughs in areas where flying foxes were present.