Medics trial drug for Hendra

Horses at J4S Equine Nursery in Cawarral were tested for Hendra virus again yesterday. Their fate could be known late this afternoon.
Horses at J4S Equine Nursery in Cawarral were tested for Hendra virus again yesterday. Their fate could be known late this afternoon. Allan Reinikka

DOCTORS in Rockhampton are ready to administer a powerful experimental drug regime to four people deemed most at risk from the deadly Hendra virus outbreak.

Queensland's chief health officer, Dr Jeanette Young, said the most experienced infectious disease physicians in the country had recommended the four be given a course of Ribavirin - a drug most commonly used to treat hepatitis.

The Morning Bulletin was able to confirm last night that the four will attend Rockhampton Hospital today and, if they decide to go ahead, treatment could start immediately and would be administered intravenously over five days for six hours a day.

Dr Young admitted she had no idea if it would help to stave off Hendra and that there was a risk of side effects such as transient anaemia.

“Ultimately it's a decision for them to take,” she said.

The four were exposed to the horse confirmed to have died from the virus on Saturday at the J4S Equine Nursery in Cawarral.

Meanwhile, the fate of the quarantined horses at the nursery could be known later today.

Test samples from those horses have been sent to the Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong.

A spokesman for the Department of Primary Industries said the first batch of results was expected late this afternoon.

He confirmed a vet had been called to the property yesterday to examine a horse with a raised temperature.

Nursery owner John Brady said last night the horse's condition had improved and it had started eating. He did not believe it had the virus.

Biosecurity Queensland reported samples had been taken from 25 horses at the property and a further 11 in New South Wales, which had travelled from Cawarral.

The agency's acting chief vet, Rick Symons, said a bat research team had visited the nursery. There were no plans to cull the bats, he said.


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