IT’S a death sentence for 75 per cent of people who come in contact with Hendra virus, and the thought of her vet husband becoming a statistic was enough for Kelly Reardon to interrupt Federal LNP Member Bruce Scott’s warm beverage.
“Bruce was having a coffee (during his campaign trail) and I went and spoke with him about the need to protect vets from Hendra. Ultimately there needs to be a vaccine, but in the short term the government needs to support this important and scary issue,” Mrs Reardon said.
“My husband could die just by doing his job, and that’s frightening.”
Scientists believe fruit bats are natural hosts of Hendra and the transmission to horses and people can be lethal, so the conversation between the wife and politician sparked a pro-active movement worth about $180,000 to combat the deadly disease.
Speaking at the Warwick Turf Club yesterday, if elected Mr Scott said the LNP would fund disposable personal protective equipment (PPE) kits for veterinarians and staff at risk of exposure to Hendra virus infection.
“Vets and their assistants are our first line of defence in identifying threats to the community from diseases, which can be transferred from animals to humans,” Mr Scott said.
“This initiative was prompted by Mrs Reardon; she approached me about the fears for her husband.
“It was great to speak with her. I listen, I don’t talk at people. This is a human health issue just as much as a horse health issue.
“At the moment the disease has only affected people and horses in Queensland, but this is not a disease that is limited to state borders and there’s a real risk of the disease appearing in New South Wales, Victoria and northern Australia.”
Mr Scott said under the scheme, each equine veterinarian who applied would be provided with three PPE kits which would be kept in their vehicle available for on-the- road horse care.
The impact of Hendra virus has been most tragically felt in Queensland with 14 known outbreaks in horses since 1994, with seven people infected, resulting in four deaths.
During September last year, Equine Veterinarians Australian chair and Warwick Vet Clinic owner Chris Reardon lost friend and fellow vet Alister Rodgers to the disease.
“There’s a 50 per cent mortality rate in horses and a 75 per cent rate in humans who come in contact with the Hendra virus,” Dr Reardon said.
“At the moment we feel like the canaries down the mine-shaft.
“It’s thought Hendra is spread by bats roosting which give birth up in the trees, the infected secretions fall down to the ground below, horses then eat grass and then its spread to humans through bodily fluids.”
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