Warning on hendra
A PIMLICO man who lost two horses to the deadly hendra virus last week has spoken of his shock and devastation, and warned local horse owners to remain vigilant regardless of where they live.
After a short trip away, Frank Curran returned to his 200ha cane farm at South Ballina last week to the news that his four-year-old mare and her 20 month-old foal had died.
A neighbour had reported the deaths and an LHPA district vet had taken samples, which confirmed hendra.
There were four hendra deaths on the North Coast this week – Mr Curran’s two horses, one horse at Ballina, and one horse at Mullumbimby.
Mr Curran said up until last week, he had not seen hendra as a threat.
“On all the advice I had up until Monday, it was a Queensland problem as far as I was aware,” he said.
He had not heard of the recent hendra cases at Wollongbar, Lismore, Macksville and Mullumbimby, but said that regardless of that, his property was “completely different country” to what he believed made a property susceptible to hendra.
“We’re down here on the cane fields,” he said, “It’s open, with a less tropical kind of climate.”
He said there were only two fig trees on the property, but these were well away from the horses, and he knew of no nearby bat colonies. There were a smattering of fruit trees – and this is where he believes his horses may have picked up the virus: “I presume the horses were grazing under a tree that had contained bat droppings,” he said.
He said the fact that hendra had struck on such open countryside was “very unsettling” and warned horse owner everywhere to take precautions.
Mr Curran’s property is now under 40-day quarantine and his four other horses remain under observation.
He described the two horses that died as family pets, and said the family was ‘absolutely devastated’ by their loss.
He will now apply to the council to remove the fruit trees.
Nine horses on the North Coast have died from hendra since June, on properties at Wollongbar, Macksville, Lismore, Ballina, Pimlico and Mullumbimby.
Six people are being tested for hendra as a result of last week’s outbreak (none from Mr Curran’s property).