The potentially deadly Hendra virus has spread further south with the NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) confirming a case in the New South Wales Hunter region.
An unvaccinated mare contracted the virus late last week at a property near Scone and had to be euthanased.
DPI senior veterinary officer Paul Freeman said health assessments had been conducted for other horses and people at the property, where about 10 people had come into contact with the horse.
“It’s not a highly infectious disease, so the risk to other horses is fairly minimal,” Mr Freeman said.
“The procedures we take are to ensure there is no human exposure wherever possible to infected areas.
“New South Wales health have undertaken risk assessments, they look at all the details of what interaction there was with the horse.”
No movement on or off the property will be allowed for three weeks.
Southernmost case on record
The last outbreak of Hendra in NSW was an unvaccinated horse on a property near Tweed Heads — right on the Queensland border — in September 2018.
It has been more than two years since a case in Queensland, when a horse died from Hendra on a property in the Gold Coast hinterland in May 2017.
Prior to the case in Scone, the southernmost detection of the virus was near Kempsey on the NSW Mid North Coast in 2013.
Since 1994, four people and 83 horses across Queensland and NSW have died from the virus.
Be alert, not alarmed
The presence of the Hendra virus in the Hunter — the heart of the largest thoroughbred breeding area in the Southern Hemisphere — has put the industry on alert.
Hunter Thoroughbred Breeders Association President Cameron Collins urged horse owners who had not yet vaccinated against the virus to consider doing so, but said there was no particular risk for local thoroughbreds.
“This horse was located well away from the general thoroughbred breeding area,” Mr Collins said.
“The general message is horses and flying foxes do not mix, and horse owners should be very diligent about keeping their horses away from flying foxes.
“The Hendra Virus vaccine is an excellent vaccine it has very good protection against the disease.”
To vaccinate or not
The Hendra vaccine has come under fire for expense and causing illness from some horse owners.
Last year horse owners launched a $53 million law suit against the pharmaceutical company responsible for developing the vaccine.
The owners, from New South Wales and Queensland, claimed that Zoetis Australia PTY LTD did not provide adequate warnings about the potential side effects of the vaccine.
Scone eventer and horse breaker Blair Richardson had stopped vaccinating his horses after they reacted to it.
However, Mr Richardson said he may reconsider that decision with Hendra now showing up so close to home.
“I think now I will look into it [the vaccination] more.
“Having something local always makes you go back, look into it again and re-evaluate.”