A quarantine notice on a property suspected of having a Hendra outbreak.
A quarantine notice on a property suspected of having a Hendra outbreak. Alistair Brightman FRA170711hend

Vets and horse owners to be more protected from Hendra

GYMPIE veterinarians and horse owners will be protected under new recommendations regarding the use of the Hendra Virus vaccine tabled in Parliament yesterday.

Member for Gympie Tony Perrett is Deputy Chair of the State Parliamentary Agriculture and Environment Committee said that the report made 11 recommendations to improve the safety of anyone interacting with horses, especially veterinarians and horse owners.

"This is very important for the Gympie region's agricultural sector, as well as our many veterinarians, and their staff, horse lovers and equestrian enthusiasts who promote participation in numerous horse-based events and tourism activities,” Mr Perrett said.

"While the committee supports vaccinating horses as the most comprehensive and safe way to prevent the spread of the virus from horses to humans, it investigated a broad range of issues from the original development and trial of the vaccine, adverse reactions in horses and the practices of veterinarians to economic and Workplace Health and Safety issues.”

The "Hendra virus EquiVacc® vaccine and its use by veterinary surgeons in Queensland” was released yesterday.

"The final determination of whether the Government implements all or some of the recommendations is up to the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Leanne Donaldson,” Mr Perrett said.

"The committee tried to take the emotion and heat out of the debate and develop a series of measures which will protect treating vets and staff, horse owners and the horses themselves.

"We have taken a common sense approach to an emotive situation with horse owners feeling pressured and treating vets concerned about the welfare of the animals while at the same time keeping themselves and their staff as safe as possible.

"We have done this while acknowledging that the most successful and comprehensive way to prevent the spread of the disease from horse to humans is through vaccinations.

"The committee has recommended that workplace health and safety legislation be amended so that veterinarians are not responsible for creating a safe workplace for any person other than their staff and themselves when treating a horse suspected of being, or know to be, infected with Hendra virus.

"As well as being responsible for their staff they were previously also liable for the horse owner even if they had chosen to not vaccinate their animal.

"Under the recommendations vaccinations for animals will not be mandatory but left to the discretion of equestrian event organisers to require as a condition of entry and for horse owners to decide based on risk.

"The committee has also recommended that the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries support the development of a rapid stall-side test as a further aid to check the Hendra virus status of horses in the field, and determine whether a rapid stall-side test could negate the need for HeV exclusion testing.

"Other recommendations from the committee include: improving time frames for exclusion testing; temperature indicators for vaccine packs, advising owners of vaccine information and 'off label' risks; raising awareness of processes for self-reporting adverse reactions to the Hendra vaccine; revision of biosecurity Queensland guidelines, workplace health and safety guidelines for both low risk and high risk treatments, equine industry representatives on the Hendra working Group and promoting vaccination of horses.

"The report is wide-ranging and now it is up to the government to implement a framework which we believe will go a long way to ensuring the safety of everyone involved in the horse industry,” he said.