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Management of Hendra virus by private veterinarians in Australia

D. H. Mendez, J. Kelly, P. Buttner, M. Nowak, R. Speare

HENDRA virus was first discovered in 1994 in Australia. It usually infects bats but can spillover to horses with occasional secondary spillover into people. Since it was first discovered, there have been 49 outbreaks along the eastern coast of Australia, resulting in the death of 90 horses and four people (including two veterinarians and one veterinary assistant). This study aimed to assess barriers to infection control and Hendra virus management among private veterinary practitioners in Queensland, Australia.

In-depth qualitative interviews were carried out with 21 veterinary professionals who worked with horses from a range of practices in rural and urban areas in Queensland. Eighteen of the participants were veterinarians.

Analysis of the qualitative data indicated several themes relating to difficulties associated with controlling Hendra virus. One important theme was the emerging nature of the virus. The participants tended to state that when the virus first emerged, they failed to recognise its significance. The fact that it occurred only sporadically in horses with long periods between outbreaks gave the impression that it was not as important as it turned out to be. Another issue raised was the difficulties …

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