THE New England and Hunter equine communities is being urged to vaccinate their horses, after a mare was put down on a property near Scone on Wednesday night.
It's the first time the bat-borne disease, which can be deadly when passed from horses to humans, has been found west of the Great Dividing Range. It's also the most southerly discovery of the disease, which had previously only reached Kempsey.
Tamworth Veterinary Hospital owner Greg Ireland said the news was "very alarming".
"We've been waiting for this day, hoping it wouldn't come but it looks like it's finally here," Dr Ireland said.
"It does raise a whole set of issues for people with horses in the area."
Dr Ireland said many people on this side of the Great Dividing range had been "a bit blase" about the virus, given it had previously been restricted to the coast.
"We need to be a lot more conscious about the disease," he said.
"Over on the coast - Lismore, northern NSW, southern Queensland - farriers won't see a horse unless it's been vaccinated.
"The vaccine is very effective and it's proven to be safe. I know it's not cheap, but when we're talking the cost of lives, it is an inexpensive thing.
"There is some misinformation out there about adverse effects, so if anyone is unsure I urge them to discuss it with their vet."
AELEC manager Mike Rowland said to see a Hendra case so close to home was a reminder to the local equine industry to remain vigilant.
"There is no doubt from a venue perspective this is a significant concern," he said.
As a venue, AELEC doesn't dictate conditions to organisations, other than asking them to follow the rules set down the by NSW government, which at the moment do not mandate Hendra virus vaccinations for competitions and events.
"However, what will doing once we've learn what has happened in this incidence, is sitting down with our major event organisations and looking at what each of our practises are from both a venue and organisation point of view are to see if they continue to be suitable in light of this," Mr Rowland said.
Costly for local horse owners
Kootingal and District Pony Club president Len Wall described the news as a "pretty serious thing".
"We'll have to get the vaccination now, we've got no option," he said.
"Scone and us, we go to each other a lot for events. We'll have to be a lot more vigilant now.
"A lot of [equine events] on the coast won't let you go unless you've got vaccine papers. We haven't had to worry about it so much because it hasn't been here."
The Hendra vaccine requires horses to get an initial shot, a follow up shot three to six weeks later, a booster six months later then one every 12 months.
"For people like myself, I look after 12 horses for my grandkids - to vaccinate all of them at $60 to $70 a pop adds up," Mr Wall said.
Contaminated horse's movements being tracked
The NSW Department of Primary Industries said the unvaccinated mare was euthanased by its owners after becoming unresponsive.
The horse developed neurological signs on Friday, June 7, three days after being confined to a yard.
Officers from NSW Health are undertaking risk assessments of people who have had contact with the affected horse to determine their risk, while the horses movements over the past 16 days are being traced.
No other horses on the property are showing any signs of ill health. Their health status will be monitored daily.
In NSW to date there have been 22 horse deaths as a result of Hendra virus on 20 properties since the first NSW case in 2006.
There have been seven cases of humans catching the disease and four deaths, however none have been in NSW.