Hendra virus vaccine won't be mandatory

Hendra virus vaccine won't be mandatory

Hendra virus vaccinations won't be mandatory in Queensland but equestrian event organisers can ban unvaccinated horses, which vets can refuse to treat, under new state government recommendations designed to save lives.

The virus has killed 77 horses and four people since it made headlines in 1994 when Vic Rail, the trainer of champion galloper Vo Rogue, died of a heart attack a week after being admitted to hospital with symptoms of Hendra.

The virus struck with flu-like symptoms similar to equine influenza in Rail's Hendra stables, killing 14 horses and shutting down racing in Brisbane for three weeks.

The virus remains a risk and will likely kill infected humans and horses but laws should not be created to make the vaccine Equivac compulsory, an eight-month-long Queensland parliament inquiry has found.

"Vaccinating against the Hendra virus remains the most effective option for preventing horse and human deaths from the virus, according to biosecurity, workplace safety and health experts," agriculture and environment committee chair Glenn Butcher said.

"If people stop vaccinating their horses, we will see deaths from Hendra virus in Queensland again."

The Australian Veterinary Association has supported the committee's recommendations, most of which are backed by the government.

"We're particularly pleased that the report recommends that the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries promotes the Hendra vaccine to horse owners and equestrian groups as a way of minimising the risk of Hendra infection," the AVA's Dr Ben Poole said.

"The government's decision to support shorter turnaround times for exclusion testing will result in better horse welfare outcomes."

The government is expected to also clarify when people need to wear protective clothing around potentially infected horses, and look into the feasibility of faster testing and diagnoses of the virus, and clearer reporting of adverse vaccine reactions.

"We are pleased with the recommendations and look forward to working with the government on implementing them," Dr Poole said.