CSIRO scientists have shown that a new experimental vaccine helps to protect horses against the deadly Hendra virus.
Dr Deborah Middleton from CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) announced the successful progress to develop the vaccine at the Australian Veterinary Association conference in Adelaide.
“Our trials so far have shown that the vaccine prevents the infection of horses with Hendra virus,” Dr Middleton said.
Stopping the disease in horses could also help protect people from the disease. “A horse vaccine is crucial to breaking the cycle of Hendra virus transmission from flying foxes to horses and then to people, as it prevents both the horse developing the disease and passing it on,” Dr Middleton said.
Hendra virus first appeared in 1994 and five of the 14 known outbreaks have spread to people. The virus has killed four of the seven people infected.
Depending on further development, field trials and registration the vaccine may be available as early as 2012.
Horse owners should be compelled to administer a new Hendra virus vaccine, according to Queensland vets affected by the deadly disease.
However, Agriculture Minister Tim Mulherin last night said the government would not jump the gun on forcing the vaccine on horse owners. But he did leave the door open for mandatory vaccinations if the treatment is proven effective.
“It is premature to talk about making the vaccine compulsory as we don’t know how effective it will be and when it will be available on the market,” he said.“Government will consider all options once the vaccine is available.”
Read more here about how Hendra virus has affected many human lives via infection from horses with the bat borne virus.