Horse vaccine critical to fight Hendra: Australian expert

18:06, October 16, 2009      

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A horse vaccine should be the focus of research to combat the deadly Hendra virus, an Australian expert said on Friday.

Experts from around the globe who gathered on Queensland's Sunshine Coast this week for a Hendra and Nipah virus workshop agreed a horse vaccine would be the quickest and most cost-effective defense against Hendra.

Australian Veterinary Association President Mark Lawrie said itwas estimated the vaccine would cost 1 million Australian dollars (0.9 million U.S. dollars) for over two years to be ready for manufacture.

"I believe a horse vaccine is critical. It's a life and death matter," Lawrie said.

"It's very difficult to fully protect yourself with the very best biosecurity control in all circumstances. That's why we need several lines of defense against the Hendra virus.

"For example, when a vet has to deal with a foaling mare ... they are exposed to a huge amount of bodily fluids, which are instrumental in the risk of Hendra."

The bat-borne virus has killed four of the seven people in Australia who have contracted the disease from the bodily fluids of infected horses.

Rockhampton veterinarian Alister Rodgers was the latest to die from the virus on September 1, after treating sick horses at a horse stud in central Queensland.

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