RACING Queensland will be campaigning for all horses to be vaccinated against the Hendra Virus following further equine deaths from the virus this year.
Four people have died from the Hendra Virus, with trainer Vic Rail succumbing to the bat-borne virus in 1994 and three more people, including two veterinarians, dying since. Racing Queensland will offer a heavily subsidised vaccination program for all registered thoroughbred and harness racehorses in the state in order to protect the 33,000 people in the industry.
Racing Queensland chairman Kevin Dixon said, “Hendra virus has the potential to cripple the racing industry, so doing nothing is not an option for Racing Queensland. “It’s vital that we prioritise the health and safety of the horseracing industry. Once a horse is infected, the serious effects of the disease and inevitable loss of life is intolerable.
Photo per illustration from abc.net.au.
“There is also a high risk of our trainers, jockeys and stable hands inadvertently coming into contact with a Hendra Virusinfected horse via the animal’s body fluids [saliva, urine, blood or faeces]. It is our responsibility to minimise any risk and vaccination is the single most effective means of achieving this.”
A deal between Racing Queensland, pharmaceutical company Zoetis (formerly Pfizer) and Equine Veterinarians Australia (EVA) will ensure the vaccine is affordable. The vaccine cost of the first priming dose will be free for all current Queensland registered racehorses, while Zoetis will provide a $3.50 vaccine rebate for the second priming dose up until Monday 30 September 2013.
Further discussions with the EVA have led to a set fee of between $30–$50 for administering each of the priming doses of the vaccine and the associated paperwork. Additional travel charges may apply if significant travel costs are incurred.
“This means that the cost to owners for the primary course of Hendra Virus injections will be between $106.50 and $146.50 plus travel costs,” Dixon said. “Racing Queensland strongly encourages all trainers and owners to take up this offer to protect the health of their horses.”
Horses must be registered in the care of a Racing Queensland licensed trainer for the purpose of racing to be eligible for the vaccination program. Racing Queensland stewards will vet all applications to ensure only eligible horses are vaccinated.
The Hendra Virus has killed eight horses at eight properties in Queensland and NSW so far this year. Horses can contract the virus by eating feed or drinking water contaminated with body fluids and excretions from flying foxes infected with the virus. Humans can contract the virus from sick horses.
It was announced last week that the Hong Kong will now accept racehorses vaccinated against the Hendra Virus. Dixon said the Hong Kong decision removed one of the major roadblocks to making the crucial vaccination program mandatory. “It was wonderful news to be told just this afternoon that the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department have advised Australia they are lifting the import restrictions for horses vaccinated for Hendra virus. Hong Kong is one of Australia’s biggest importers of race horses.