HENDRA: Mundubbera Vet Anja Schmidt (left) and Hendra survivor Natalie Beohm get behind a vaccination drive in the North Burnett.
HENDRA: Mundubbera Vet Anja Schmidt (left) and Hendra survivor Natalie Beohm get behind a vaccination drive in the North Burnett. Noel Thompson

Hendra virus survivor travelling with her message

NATALIE Beohm is a Hendra virus survivor, but only just.

On Tuesday night, the young vet nurse who contracted the previously rare and largely unknown virus in 2008, will battle chronic fatigue and constant pain to bring her message to Gympie people.

She says horse owners and countries which host equestrian events need to promote the immunisation of horses and recognise a moral responsibility to the people, including vets and riders, who work with them.

That can include their own family members.

"Hendra can be prevented, so why risk the alternative?" she said yesterday.

The interview was hard work for the vet nurse, who says she will never fully recover from the damage done to her body and brain by the often fatal disease.

She is backed by Gympie vet Justin Schooth, of Gympie Veterinary Services, who says the virus affects more than the lives of horses.

"Horses can shed Hendra virus before showing physical symptoms, which means treating an unvaccinated horse is risky," Dr Schooth said.

Currently battling the winter ailments, with which her damaged immune system struggles regularly, Ms Beohm says fatigue and pain are also her new constant companions.

"It's hard when you realise you can never be like you were," said the young woman who caught the virus from a horse, seven years ago, aged 21.

"The doctors said to my parents, 'She's not going home; she's not leaving the hospital.'

"My parents say I wouldn't have survived if I wasn't so pig-headed."

It is hard, she says, "when you try to live life as you used to, but everything has changed.

"I'm lucky I'm still here.

"My colleague died and left a family and friends."

Natalie, one of seven people known to have contracted the disease, is hitting the road to show people the human cost of Hendra and to urge vigilance.

Dr Schooth says he and his staff dread working with unvaccinated horses, which can transmit Hendra to dogs and humans.