Policy on Horses and Hendra Virus Vaccination
Dear valued clients and horse owners generally,
Due to the seriousness of Hendra and its repercussions to our service to you, we have structured and formalized a policy which we now present to you.
Hendra virus is a disease that is fatal to humans and horses. The mortality rate for horses known to have contracted Hendra Virus is 100% and in humans is 60%. As Veterinarians and Nurses we are most at risk of contracting Hendra Virus and I can no longer feel OK about sending my staff out where there is a real risk to their lives.
The reason it is so dangerous on our behalf is because the clinical signs associated with Hendra are so varied. The horses that have contracted Hendra virus have shown many different signs including: normal, high and low temperatures, colic, nervous signs, nasal discharge, symptoms mistaken as snake bites, choke and just not well. Cases have even occurred where there has been no known activity of flying foxes.
A critical point where we are concerned is that the only way to diagnose Hendra virus is to send blood samples away for an exclusion test with Biosecurity Queensland.
A horse can transfer Hendra Virus to a human 3 days before the horse even shows signs of sickness.
The Hendra vaccination is considered to be safe and effective. Over 100,000 horses have now been vaccinated and the rate of complications is very low. The most common complication is a swelling at the injection site, or very rarely a raised temperature or malaise (off food) for 24 hours. No deaths or serious injury have been reported after a Hendra Virus vaccination and there are no known repercussions for reproductive animals.
NOTE: Hendra virus is categorized as a “BSL-4” virus (Bio-safety Level 4 – the same as Ebola Virus) and is considered by NAID and CDC to be a Category 3 bioterrorism agent or pathogen.
We at Proserpine Veterinary Surgery feel very strongly that we need to
- Look after our staff.
- Inform / educate clientele to this concerning reality.
- Strongly encourage vaccination of horses as this is the only way for all to remain safe from this nasty disease.
The practical consequences, for us as we go forward will be:
From the 10th May 2017, we will use the following guidelines for seeing unvaccinated horses:
- Routine examinations for Well, unvaccinated horses Eg: ultrasounds, dental procedures, injuries, pre purchase exams, radiology etc will be STRONGLY encouraged to commence Hendra Vaccination cover at, or prior to treatment (we reserve the right to decline due to unacceptable risk)
- Sick, unvaccinated horses will be charged a higher examination fee that is in line with the costs of personal protective equipment and the additional time required in “suiting up” and decontaminating. Owners may also be charged for the costs of an exclusion test (packaging and shipping of the sample to Brisbane). This will be between $250 - $370.
Keep in mind Sick, unvaccinated horses will have limited treatment which is deemed necessary for the horses welfare until there is a negative exclusion test.