Cash – a strong, healthy horse dearly loved by his owners – had to be put down on after contracting Hendra virus.
Cash – a strong, healthy horse dearly loved by his owners – had to be put down on after contracting Hendra virus. Contributed

Hendra antidote trialed on pair

A TEWANTIN mother and her daughter who were exposed to the Hendra virus have spent the night in hospital after receiving an experimental preventative drug.

The drug, imported from the US, has successfully prevented Hendra virus in ferrets and monkeys.

However, it is still under development by a team of scientists from Australia’s CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory and a research institute in the United States.

Rebecca Day and Mollie, 12, made the tough decison to accept the treatment yesterday.

They were devastated when their beloved six-year-old gelding, Cash, had to be put down on May 17 after testing positive to Hendra virus.

Cash’s stablemate Whisky, 16, is still under observation on the quarantined property.

Chief health officer Jeannette Young said told reporters in Brisbane the mother and daughter had a moderate to high risk of developing the virus.

“They are two of 12 people who were exposed to the Hendra virus,” she said.

“A twelfth person has now come forward and is to be tested, but is regarded as low-risk.

“In preliminary baseline testing, 11 have received negative results, but crucial follow-up testing is necessary 21 days and 42 days after exposure.”

The others have not been offered the treatment because they were not considered at high risk.

The experimental preventative drug’s antibodies work by attaching themselves to the virus and blocking it from entering cells in small blood vessels.

Dr Young said it was used for veterinarian Dr Alister Rodgers, who died last year from the virus, but in that case it was after he had developed symptoms of the disease.

“In the case of the mother and daughter, they have no symptoms and have negative initial results, so it is being used as a prophylactic therapy for them,” she said.

“They are receiving the therapy this afternoon at Princess Alexandra Hospitaland will remain in hospital for observation.

“We remain hopeful and positive that ongoing testing will not show signs of the Hendra virus, but just in case experts have recommended to the mother and daughter that they receive this therapy and they have agreed.”

Ms Day and her daugther will only recieve one infusion.

Dr Young said it had not been expected that the baseline testing for the virus would be positive as development of the disease in the seven cases to date have occurred six to 21 days after exposure to the virus.

“These baseline tests are still important and vital, as they help us interpret later tests at three weeks and again at six weeks,” she said.

“We emphasise that Hendra virus is not a particularly infectious virus and evidence from recent outbreaks shows that even someone with a moderate to high exposure has less than one-in-10 chance of actually getting it,” Dr Young said.

“We have only seven cases recorded in humans and no cases of transmission from human to human.”

All human infections have occurred following direct exposure to tissues and secretions from infected or dead horses.

No vaccine against Hendra virus is currently available, though research is underway to develop one.

Read more about Hendra virus in Queensland...

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Alister Rodgers dies from Hendra

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