COMMUNITY HELP: Isabella and Sophie with the mum Gemma and Wayne Kerle, holding the slowly recovering Bella.
COMMUNITY HELP: Isabella and Sophie with the mum Gemma and Wayne Kerle, holding the slowly recovering Bella. Craig Warhurst

Owner believes sick horse had reaction to hendra vaccination

GEMMA Antrobus has spent the better part of a week in a paddock with her critically ill paint mare Bella.

The Tin Can Bay woman said Bella's illness was noticed after she received her first dose of the hendra vaccination.

Gemma believes Bella had an adverse reaction to the vaccination.

Her mare has barely been able to walk, spending lengthy periods on the ground unable to move.

The Wide Bay community has offered its support to Gemma and her family, who are fighting to save Bella's life.

The story so far

BELLA'S woes began last Saturday, when she was found on her side on the ground and experiencing great difficulty when she tried to walk.

Gemma described the situation as "terrifying", adding that when Bella tried to walk, it looks like she was going to break her legs.

Gemma says her horse was healthy before she received the vaccination, but said the vet who treated Bella felt it wasn't a reaction to the vaccination.

Bella's story has been shared hundreds of times on Facebook and has lit up social media, especially on groups opposed to the controversial hendra vaccination.

Before Bella could receive treatment, the horse had to be tested for hendra, which can pose a risk for humans, Gemma said.

It is believed Bella was cleared of the disease after a Gympie vet did a blood test on the horse after she fell ill.

The Gympie veterinary clinic was contacted and asked for comment, but declined to make a statement.

The hendra vaccination got the tick of approval when it received registration from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority earlier this week.

According to information

from the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority, there have been 633 probable links between the vaccine and reactions and another 125 links out of more than 340,000 doses administered across Australia.

Less than 0.8% of horses suffered a possible or probable reaction, according to data from the APVMA.

'Vaccine is safe'

THE APMVA provided information to ABC Rural earlier this year, which said there had been 11 claims of the vaccine causing death.

In seven of the cases, it was found that the vaccination possibly caused the death of the horse, while the remainder of the cases were classified as unlikely or unknown.

There have been 73 horse deaths recorded from the hendra virus, while four people have died from the virus in Queensland.

Nathan Anthony, a representative of Equine Veterinarians Australia said the symptoms Bella was showing were consistent either with trauma or some kind of virus.

He said blood had been drawn from the horse and testing would be undertaken to find out what was causing the horse's illness.

Mr Anthony said Gemma had told other media that the Bella had been losing weight before receiving the vaccination, which would lend credence to the idea of a virus.

He said one thing people needed to be wary of was linking a potential illness to a recent vaccination, as there was always a likelihood that the two would not be linked.

"This is the most effective way of reducing the risk of hendra," he said. He advised horse owners to consult with their vets rather than social media.

Saving Bella

MARYBOROUGH'S Iris Amann from Wide Bay Equine Therapy donated her services after hearing of Bella's illness, treating the animal with acupuncture, massage and muscle stimulation.

Iris said despite the fact that the horse was having trouble moving around she believed Bella could recover based on what she had seen.

Iris said her horses had received the hendra vaccination and none had experienced an adverse reaction.

She said Bella was struggling to stand on her back legs. But Iris said Bella's eyes were clear, she was eating well and trying to get up and she remained hopeful that Bella could yet survive her ordeal.

Iris said it was clear how much Gemma and her husband loved the horse, adding it was especially pleasing to see the community's support for the family and their animal.

A Facebook page has been set up for the sick horse, called We Support Bella.

Good news was reported on the page yesterday, with news that Bella had been sitting up for short periods and was trying to get up.

A GoFundMe page has also been set up by Simone McArdle to help the family combat any costly veterinary bills.

A target of $4000 has been set and so far $560 has been raised.

Hendra symptoms in horses

Laboured breathing

Frothy and/or blood-stained nasal discharge

A temperature (usually, but not always, higher than 40°C)

Neurological changes, including tilting of the head, loss of vision, abnormal muscle twitching, weakness and loss of balance

Colic like discomfort.