THE North Coast Public Health Unit is reminding all horse owners and residents to be aware that NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) is managing an outbreak of Hendra virus in horses in the area, with four horses dying from Hendra infection since early June.
Public Health Director, Paul Corben said that public health staff are working closely with the DPI and Livestock Health and Pest Authority (LHPA) to investigate potential human health aspects of the outbreak.
"Public Health Unit staff have interviewed people who may have had contact with Hendra-infected horses to assess their level of exposure and their risk of infection. Thankfully so far all contacts of these horses have been assessed as having low to negligible risk of infection," Mr Corbin said.
"While all of the human infections that have occurred in the past have been linked to high levels of exposure to infected horses, four of the seven people who have been infected with Hendra have died. So, it is particularly important to protect yourself, other people and your horses from infection."
"There is no evidence of human-to-human or flying fox-to-human spread of Hendra virus. Horses may shed Hendra virus before they show any signs of illness, so it is always important to use good hygiene practices when around horses" Mr Corben said.
NSW Ministry of Health advises people to always take the following steps to reduce the risk of becoming infected with Hendra virus:
- cover any cuts or abrasions on exposed skin before handling horses and wash your hands well with soap and water especially after handling your horse's mouth or nose (eg. fitting or removing bridle) and before eating, smoking or touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- do not kiss your horse on the muzzle (especially if the horse is sick).
- use personal protective equipment to protect yourself from the body fluids of horses
- if your horse becomes unwell, minimise contact with the horse and call your vet to have the horse assessed. If you think there's any chance that your horse may be infected with Hendra, share this concern with your vet so she/he can take appropriate precautions when assessing the horse.