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Biosecurity / Infectious Diseases


On August 5th, Zoetis announced the Hendra virus vaccine, Equivac® HeV, has received registration from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) and released the data on reported side effects. In a press release issued last week, General Manager for Zoetis Australia and New Zealand Lance Williams, said: “We are pleased that after nearly three years of positive uptake, Equivac® HeV vaccine has successfully been registered."


Equine Infectious Anaemia (EIA) is an incurable viral disease that is spread by biting insects. It is a rare disease in Australia, found most commonly in isolated pockets, particularly in Queensland.


Equine Herpes Virus (EHV) causes horse owners and breeders a large amount of concern due to its potentially devastating effects.  The virus is ever-present in the horse population worldwide and cases of Herpes virus infection are seen sporadically across Australia. It can cause mild to life-threatening disease affecting the respiratory and neurological systems, as well as being responsible for abortions in all ages and breeds of horses and donkeys.


The HHALTER Project is examining how virus-related knowledge, attitudes and practices change over a two-year period through a series of five surveys circulated to horse owners around Australia. This project aims to ensure that horse people are central to Hendra Virus-related policy development and research.


Strangles is a bacterial infection caused by the organism Streptococcus equi subspecies equi (S.equi). Fever is generally the first clinical sign seen, followed by enlargement of the lymph nodes of the head and neck. These swellings can be severe enough to impede respiration completely, hence the name ‘strangles’. A profuse thick nasal discharge is also likely to occur. 


A positive outcome of the media focus on Hendra Virus, Murray Valley Encephalitis and Kunjin virus is that owners and veterinarians are becoming more diligent in observing horses for signs of disorders affecting the brain, spinal cord and nerves.  In this article, Dr Natasha Hovanessian, from the Canberra Equine Hospital explains what neurologic disease looks like in the horse and how your veterinarian may diagnose the cause, as well as discussing some of the more common neurologic problems seen in Australia.   Signs of Neurologic Disease 


Early in 2011, an increase in the number of horses suffering from neurological disease was detected in NSW and Victoria. Blood samples from over 200 cases were submitted to the NSW State Veterinary laboratory, Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute. The brains of some of the few horses that died from the disease were also examined. Initially, an Arbovirus (a virus carried by insects) was suspected, with Murray Valley Encephalitis, Ross River Fever and Kunjin virus being investigated as the possible cause.


After 10 years of research, the Hendra Virus vaccine is now available to protect your horse, you, your family and friends, from catching HeV. Both horse owners and veterinary practitioners need to vaccinate horses and be familiar with the signs of Hendra, so they can identify and instigate an investigation when the disease is suspected. Culling bats - Not an option


Biosecurity has been somewhat of a buzzword lately, but what does it really mean? Well, quite simply Bio refers to anything biological and security is obviously about protection, so biosecurity refers to protecting ourselves, our families, our animals, and our country, from any biological agent that might harm them.   As a horse owner or a parent the first step in becoming biosecure is understanding what is involved in practical terms


Despite the widespread media coverage of Hendra virus outbreaks and the release of the Hendra vaccine last November, many horse owners are still uncertain about different aspects surrounding the vaccine and do not know if they should vaccinate their horses. In this article, Dr Nathan Anthony a member of the AVA HeV Task Force who is involved with the Qld Government interagency review of HeV Infection Prevention Advice answers some of the most frequently asked questions from horse owners.  


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