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Racing NSW Issues Hendra Warning To Trainers

Wednesday, 13th July 2011

Meanwhile Racing NSW issued a notice reminding trainers “of the risks surrounding Hendra virus & the need for preventative measures to minimise the risk of human infection”. It noted: “The natural hosts of Hendra virus are bats (flying foxes) which can then pass the virus onto horses. Human infection results from close contact with the blood, body fluids & tissues of infected horses. There is no evidence of human-to-human or bat-to-human spread of Hendra virus.” Hendra virus infection of horses can include “rapid onset of illness, increased temperature, increased heart rate, discomfort or weight shifting between legs, depression, respiratory & neurological signs”. The risk of Hendra virus infection in horses “is higher where horses are kept outdoors in areas where flying foxes are known to inhabit. Flying foxes often visit properties where native eucalypts, bottlebrushes, lilli-pillies, figs & melaleucas are flowering. Blossoms are their primary source of food. They will also feed on palm seeds & exotic fruits when native food is less abundant.” To protect horses, owners/trainers should: place feed & water containers under cover; do not place feed & water containers under trees; do not use feed that might be attractive to flying foxes, such as fruit & vegetables (apples, carrots) or anything sweet (molasses); remove horses from paddocks where flowering or fruiting trees have resulted in a temporary surge in flying fox numbers; restrict horse access to areas where flying foxes are active. Racing NSW emphasised “a large population of flying foxes is known to inhabit Centennial Park & considerable numbers of these animals are known to visit the Royal Randwick Racecourse precinct to feed on the fruits of the many fig trees on course”. Racing NSW also noted: “Human infection is thought to occur through contact with body fluids of infected horses. As a precaution, people in close contact with horses that have Hendra-like signs should wear protective face masks, goggles & gloves & take care with personal disinfection. The risk of human infection can be greatly reduced by adopting good hygiene practices as a matter of routine & taking increased precautions around any sick horse. It is also important to wash hands with soap & water regularly before, during & after handling horses & minimise contact with your horse if it is unwell.”

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