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

Trauma from Hendra death 'with me for life'

EVEN after losing one horse to Hendra virus, Peachester woman Jennifer Crane nearly succumbed to social media pressure to skip vaccinating her other horse.

In a submission to the Queensland parliamentary inquiry into the Hendra vaccine, Ms Crane said the death of her horse to the disease in 2006 was deeply traumatic.

"The deep trauma from the circumstances of the loss of my horse and the possibility of becoming infected myself never left me, indeed I think I will carry it for life. It is a fear you cannot describe and cannot know unless you experience it," she said.

But despite that she said stories of reactions to the vaccine spread on social media initially stopped her vaccinating her other horse.

Ms Crane is one of about 20 Sunshine Coast region horse owners to make submissions to the inquiry.

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Mooloolah horse owner Annabel Sidebottom said the three horses had all reacted to the vaccine.

Beerwah vet Dorothea Hofman said she believed the vaccine was unsafe.

"As a veterinarian and past president of the North Coast Active Riders Group, a horse owner and rider myself I have seen far too many problems and know far too many people with problems to believe that the level of reactions is well and truly above what the drug company claims," she said.

Dr Hofman was one of the only vets to make a submission opposing the vaccine.

Ms Crane said she believed in the vaccine - but understood why some horse owners were hesitant.

"The peace of mind the vaccination gives me is immeasurable, however in saying that I do understand the point of view of other horse owners who choose not to or cannot afford to vaccinate, who are still awaiting more evidence of safety of the vaccine itself or who feel they are being bullied into vaccinating their horses," she said.

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


Horse owner Ben Ryan and Pekarra Dazzling Deputy.Melissa Cruden Crazy Horse Designs
Horse owner Ben Ryan and Pekarra Dazzling Deputy. Photo: Melissa Cruden Crazy Horse Designs

Vaccine convert wins reining comps

BEN Ryan had heard horror claims about the Hendra vaccine - lame horses, a dodgy approvals process, vets not treating sick unvaccinated horses.

He didn't want to vaccinate his Pekarra Dazzling Deputy that he planned to enter in a number of prestige reining competitions.

But when a part-owner and a trusted vet insisted the vaccine was safe and necessary if he wanted to compete in certain horse competitions, Mr Ryan relented.

"Even though I took his word on it, I was still a little apprehensive about the vaccination and the idea of it possibly jeopardising a successful outcome at the reining show," he said.

Pekarra Dazzling Deputy went on to win two of Queensland's most prestigious reining competitions, the Pacific Coast Reining Futurity and the Queensland Open Reining Futurity.

But the success hasn't convinced Mr Ryan the vaccine should be mandatory.

"I don't think anyone should be forced to vaccinate their horses," he said.

"I think at the end of the day it should be up to the owner and what they feel comfortable with."

How dangerous is Hendra?

SEVEN humans have caught Hendra virus, four have died.

The latest figures show there have been 41 outbreaks of Hendra virus in Queensland - all involving horses getting infected. As a result, 73 horses have died or been euthanised.

The Australian Veterinary Association says if a person catches Hendra, their chance of dying is 57%. If a horse catches it, its chance of dying is 79%.

So far, there is no evidence humans can catch Hendra direct from a bat. It appears humans can only get infected from a horse.

The Queensland parliamentary inquiry into the Hendra vaccine is examining reported side effects from the vaccine and vets refusing to treat horses that have not been vaccinated.

It came after complaints from horse owners that after the vaccine horses were showing symptoms ranging from swelling, stiff necks and lethargy through to inability to stand and even to death.

The inquiry is also looking at how vets are approaching treating unvaccinated horses after Workplace Health and Safety launched prosecutions against three vets for not taking reasonable care because they allegedly failed to wear protective equipment when examining unvaccinated horses.

The committee is due to deliver its report on October 22.