Biosecurity officers test a horse for the Hendra virus.
Biosecurity officers test a horse for the Hendra virus.

Death of Cooloola horse Bella taken to Parliament

THE death of Cooloola Cove horse Bella has been taken to Queensland Parliament.

Ten days after Bella was vaccinated for Hendra she fell ill and eventually had to be put down.


Owner Gemma Antrobus initially believed the illness was a reaction to the vaccination but an autopsy found Bella had cancer.


In a submission to the Queensland parliamentary inquiry into the Hendra vaccine, Ms Antrobus said it took days for a test to see whether Bella had Hendra to return.

She said she turned to social media for advice in desperation. The story went viral among groups opposed to the vaccine, believing it can cause severe reactions.

Ms Antrobus told the inquiry the treating vets became cold after she turned to social media.

"The vets returned on Sunday night, due I believe, to the public exposure and phone calls being made. They were unfriendly to the point of being rude,” she said.

"I believe that I have been treated disrespectfully and unprofessionally, in an uncaring manner.”

But in a submission to the inquiry Brooloo-based vet Steve Dennis said anti-vaccination groups were using social media to spread "unsubstantiated” stories.

"There is a highly vocal anti-Hendra vaccination lobby amongst influential equestrian personalities, including Olympic-level riders, who have used social media to draw attention to reports of reactions to the vaccine, many of which have been unsubstantiated by rigorous investigation,” Dr Dennis said.

"I have personally administered in excess of 800 doses of Hendra vaccine Equivac HeV. I have had only three horses develop a reaction to the vaccine, and this has manifest as muscle pain and mild swelling.”

Dr Dennis also condemned the prosecution of three vets for treating unvaccinated horses - an issue the inquiry is examining.

"I believe that prosecuting veterinarians in the line of providing a service to determine if a horse is infected with a virus which has claimed the lives of two veterinarians, when the client has had every opportunity to prevent this occurring by vaccinating their horses, is a major miscarriage of justice.”

Inquiry chair, Gladstone MP Glenn Butcher, said a rift had opened up between some horse owners and vets.