The Queensland and New South Wales state governments have committed to spending an extra $6 million as the fight to eradicate the Hendra virus intensifies.
A total of 14 horses located between Cairns in the far north and Macksville on the New South Wales mid north coast have now died from the disease, which authorities are struggling to control.
“Beating Hendra is going to take a combined effort of science Australia,” said Queensland premier Anna Bligh.
Ms Bligh said that the new $6 million in funding would complement the work the CSIRO was doing to develop a vaccine to prevent horses picking up the infection in the first place.
The current outbreak of the disease was first detected in the south western corner of Queensland, however it has now spread just about all the way up the Queensland coast and into New South Wales, which has led Racing Victoria Chief Executive Rob Hines to warn Victorian trainers about the dangers of the disease.
A host of Victorian horses, including Black Caviar, have been spelling at agistment farms in Queensland, which has prompted Hines to send biosecurity information to all trainers who have had horses in Queensland in recent months.
Mike Moroney actually rushed his star filly Brazilian Pulse back from Queensland a week ago, as he feared an outbreak would mean she was stranded in the affected zone.
Hines said that the Hendra outbreak was far more serious than the Equine Influenza outbreak that crippled racing in 2007 because it had the potential to kill humans as well.
Issues surrounding the Hendra virus have been further complicated by the fact that it was recently found in a dog on a Queensland farm.
Scientists were of the opinion that the virus could only be transferred along the bat-horse-human axis, however this case has led to fears that the disease could be mutating, which could be disastrous for the horse population, especially in Queensland.
“We don’t know how the dog contracted the virus or when it happened. Based on our knowledge to date, it is most likely that the dog caught the virus from an infected horse,” said chief Queensland vet Rick Symons.