The equine hendra vaccine, which was released in high risk areas across Queensland and New South Wales beginning Nov. 1, is now available to horse owners in other Australian areas, including the Northern Territory (NT).

The Australian Veterinary Association’s (AVA) President, Alex Burleigh, BVSc hons, said the arrival of the vaccine in the NT was welcome news.

"With a high population of both flying foxes and horses in the NT we are urging all horse owners to get their horses vaccinated, especially considering more than 75% of flying foxes in the Territory are exposed to the disease at certain times of the year," he explained. "Although there have never been any confirmed cases of hendra in the NT, with the dense population of flying foxes present–particularly in northern areas such as Darwin and Katherine–our view has always been that it would be just a matter of time before there would be a case."

The AVA says that although the vaccine will significantly decrease the risk of exposure to the hendra virus for horse owners, handlers, and veterinarians, precautions still need to be taken.

"Anyone handling a sick horse should continue to follow infection control procedures such as wearing personal protective equipment, quarantining sick horses, and following good hygiene practices," Burleigh said.

The vaccine became available in the Northern Territory Friday (Nov. 23) and horse owners are advised to contact their veterinarian to schedule a vaccine appointment.

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