Hendra virus is a disease that is potentially fatal to both horses and humans. Hendra virus has no specific or consistent clinical signs. Horses with Hendra virus can show symptoms that mimic many other diseases commonly seen in horses for example colic, tick paralysis, encephalitis, snake bite, choke, and lameness. Hendra horses may not show any symptoms in the early stages of the disease but already be capable of transmitting Hendra to humans.
The possibility that an infected horse showing no symptoms could transmit Hendra to a person means that without the protection of a fully sealed biohazard suit (including face shield & P2 respirator) it is impossible to avoid exposure to Hendra when dealing with unvaccinated horses. In the knowledge that it is impossible to identify horses that may be in the early but infectious stages of Hendra virus, and in light of the potentially fatal consequences of contracting Hendra virus, we consider exposure to unvaccinated horses to be an unacceptable occupational health and safety risk for Ready Vet employees.
On that basis, the Ready Vet Hendra Vaccination Policy is a necessary measure for the safety of Ready Vet employees. It is also an important part of our duty of care to our clients and the wider community, which includes educating and raising awareness about preventable disease – especially in relation to life-threatening diseases such as Hendra virus. We urge you to very carefully consider your own safety, the safety of your loved ones, and the risks associated with exposure to unvaccinated horses.
The Hendra virus vaccination is given as an initial dose followed by a second dose 21-42 days later, with boosters every 6 months thereafter. The vaccination is believed to be effective in preventing infection from Hendra virus from approximately 21 days after administration of the second dose of vaccine. The Ready Vet Hendra Virus Policy will therefore include a requirement that the vet must administer the first and second dose of the Hendra virus vaccination wearing basic Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). In the spirit of encouraging Hendra vaccination of all horses, the cost of the basic PPE will be borne by Ready Vet.
It is no longer safe to assume that only “sick” horses pose a Hendra risk. Vaccination is the only effective way to reduce the risk of Hendra transmission.