Friday, July 15, 2011

Biosecurity Queensland Hendra Virus Update 15 July 2011

Those following the Hendra Virus situation might be interested in this veterinary communique from Biosecurity Queensland.
There has been a lot of media beatup and a suprising level of misunderstanding in the community about the role of Flying foxes in the Hendra Virus situation.  Plenty of politicians and others are calling for bat culls and relocation.  Eg: This article at the Cairns Post
Meantime, some people don't understand that bats ARE firmly implicated as the primary host and carrier of Hendra Virus.
Hendra Virus is common in flying foxes and has not been detected in any other species except those associated with outbreaks in horses (including 7 humans and 1 cat) despite testing of thousands of native and domestic animals.
A flying fox cull is not not the answer though, as bats play a vital role in the ecosystem, virus spread is actually exacerbated by stress, and disease transmission to horses can be minimised by excluding horses from grazing below flying fox roosts and feeding areas.

Moving flying foxes is a bit like cat herding so is probably not viable, and they frequently go somewhere else they aren't wanted or return to the same location later.
Planning to kill or disrupt hundreds of thousands of flying foxes hoping to prevent a handfull of horse and human infections isn't a smart way to approach this situation and would have huge environmental repercussions: surely in the 21st century we have some insight into how complex systems interact and our actions can have unexpected and often massive consequences elsewhere. 
In this case the types of unintended  outcomes we could see include the spread of the disease into other geographic areas (I can just see the outcry if a case is recorded in Southern NSW or Victoria following a Queensland Flying Fox harassment campaign), changes in plant pollination and seeding patterns (such as the spread of weeds which flying foxes feed on like bush tobacco) and population disruption, such as plagues/endangerment of critical species in these and other groups of animals.
Dallas McMillan
Cairns Veterinary Clinic 
Read more on Hendra Virus at Cairns Pet News
Biosecurity QLD Hendra Virus Current Situation

Hendra virus in North Queensland Biosecurity Queensland officers continue to monitor 36 horses on the quarantined property at Kuranda near Cairns, where Hendra virus was confirmed on Tuesday 12 July.

The remaining horses on the property will undergo testing for Hendra virus and will be monitored closely by Biosecurity Queensland staff in conjunction with the horse owner. Currently all horses appear clinically normal.

There is no connection between the horses or properties in Kuranda to the incidents at Beaudesert, Boonah, Park Ridge or in New South Wales.

Hendra virus in South East Queensland

The second round of testing from the horses located on quarantined properties in Beaudesert has been completed.

The horses located on the quarantined properties at Mt Alford and Park Ridge will undergo a second round of testing over the next two weeks.

There are three rounds of testing in total. The final rounds of testing will take place a minimum of two incubation periods after the last opportunity for a horse to be infected.

The total number of properties quarantined as a result of Hendra virus in Queensland is nine. There have been six confirmed horse deaths.

There are 76 horses are being monitored on a daily basis. All horses appear clinically normal.

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