Commission warns racing industry to vaccinate against Hendra now

The Queensland Racing Integrity Commission (the Commission) is calling on all horse owners and trainers to ensure that their horses’ Hendra virus vaccinations are up to date.

The Commission’s Veterinary Services and Animal Welfare Director Dr Martin Lenz said that the unvaccinated horse, which recently died in the greater Newcastle area of NSW, was the second horse to have died from a recently-discovered novel strain of HeV (Hendra virus).

It is also the most southerly case of Hendra virus infection reported yet.

“While New South Wales is currently on high alert, it is very important that Queensland horse owners continue to be vigilant and Hendra virus aware.

“It is very much in the interests of the health of all people working with racehorses and the health and welfare of those horses to ensure that all horses’ vaccinations are up-to-date.

“Australian researchers first discovered the novel strain of the deadly Hendra virus when they compared samples from flying foxes with those from a horse which died in 2015.  

The novel strain they discovered was associated with species of flying fox not previously thought to play a major role in transmitting Hendra virus.

This means that areas previously deemed as low risk may actually face a higher risk of virus transmission,” he said.

“These areas include locations in Queensland where grey-headed flying foxes predominate.”

Dr Lenz is calling on racing industry participants to update their biosecurity arrangements to neutralise the impact of this deadly virus.

Vaccination is the best protection
The equine HeV vaccine provides full protection against this new strain and remains the most effective way to protect horses and people from the serious risks of Hendra virus disease.  Hendra vaccination does not affect racing performance.
A 2018 QRIC funded study confirmed that vaccination against the deadly Hendra virus does not affect the racing performance of race horses.