Hendra Virus Science Congress

Seventy people attended the Congress which was for the purpose of hearing presentations of the short listed proposals, and potential collaboration for Commissioned projects vying for a slice of the $2M Open funding program which forms part of the $12M available for HeV research.

The Steering Committee of the National Hendra Virus Research program will receive recommendations from the Expert Panel who heard the proposals and the decision on which projects are successful will be finalised early next year.

Proposals covered :

  • development of models to aid in predicting risk of transmission between bat and horse
  • models to forecast high risk HeV periods on equine premises
  • development of field testing for Hev antibodies in horses which will be of great use once vaccination rolls out
  • early warning of potential spillover

Speakers covered other topics

vaccination development ( roll out in broad use by early 2013 is expected):Hendra virus in domestic animalsissues with sero positive animals and euthanasiasocial science issues such as impacts of HeV on equine vets and community perceptions

Research priority outcomes desired:

  • Capacity to predict periods of high risk for HeV transmission from flying foxes to horses- understanding Hendra virus ecology and modelling Hendra virus risk.
  • Improved strategies to prevent transmission of Hendra virus from flying foxes to horses, from horses to humans, from horses to horses, and potentially to other susceptible species. research areas could include:

-Horse - flying fox interactions,

-horse and property management,

-factors influencing risk awareness and adoption of risk mitigation strategies.

  • Capacity to detect and respond effectively to Hendra virus incidents in horses, humans and potentially other species

 

While I believe the "horse" factor is still of minority importance to the majority of stakeholders in attendance, the Congress was definitely worthwhile as it gave all sectors an insight and understanding into the science involved and an opportunity to both hear other stakeholders points of view and to state their own points of view, concerns etc.

It is very obvious the issues surrounding Hendra are wide and varied and are impacting on everyone from horse owners, bat carers, equine vets (and their diminishing number due to HeV), to the general public, perception of Govt actions re euthanasia of all sero positive animals, to International perceptions and the list goes on and on.

The benefits for the Thoroughbred industry are that we have raised awareness with a very broad spectrum of scientists, agencies (both Govt and non) of a number of issues facing our industry.

These include the lack of understanding about HeV vs. EI , and about HeV in general and even by vets as shown in their attitude towards Qld mares and foals at NSW studs for just one example and the welfare issues that then ensue.

The issues surrounding vaccination roll out in 2013 and uptake were raised a number of times. The Thoroughbred Industry is well recognised as being at the front of the game as far as identification of horses in Australia and as vets will require proof of vaccination of horses being treated in the future our ID model may play a big part in future data storage.

A Horse Owners questionnaire has been developed to gather information for DPI and BQ and will be available sometime in the next week or so online. They hope to get as many horse owners as possible to fill it out to gather meaningful data. The only identification involved will be to put in your postcode so it will be anonymous otherwise.

If nothing else we have certainly made it clear that we believe the horse is just as important a cog in the HeV wheel as the flying fox.