Australian veterinarian dies after infection from horse

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Sep 02, 2009
By dvm360.com staff
Brisbane, Australia -- An equine practitioner from Queensland, Australia, has died after contracting the Hendra virus from a horse.

Dr. Alister Rogers had been in a medically induced coma for a few weeks. He is the second equine veterinarian and fourth person to die from the disease.

According to news reports, Dr. Rogers hadn’t taken adequate infectious-disease precautions when he treated a Hendra-infected foal because he suspected the horse was sick from a snake bite, not the potentially fatal virus.

Four of the six people infected with the Hendra virus since 1994 died from the disease, which is carried by flying foxes (fruit-eating bats) and transmitted to horses, according to information on the AHIC Web site. The virus kills up to 80 percent of infected horses, and the remainder are destroyed to safeguard humans. No cases of human-to-human infection have been reported.

All 30 Hendra outbreaks in horses have been in Australia, where the virus was first discovered in 1994.

In a statement, Australian Veterinary Association president Mark Lawrie urged governments on the continent to help fight the disease.

“All indications are that Hendra is here to stay, and it is probable that cases will emerge in states other than Queensland,” says Lawrie. “We need some serious funding for education and training for everyone involved with horses, including owners and veterinarians, about how to lower the risk of falling victim to Hendra.”