Manager in Hendra virus lockdown
STUD manager Debbie Brown is refusing to leave the Cawarral property at the centre of a Hendra virus outbreak.
“Until someone can assure me I don't have a deadly disease, how can I risk passing it on to my children,” she said yesterday from inside the J4S Equine Nursery.
Government officials yesterday confirmed that a prized mare that died at the weekend was killed by the virus that is carried by flying foxes and can spread from horses to humans.
Debbie, who was sprayed with fluid from the horse before it died at the nursery on Cawarral Road, is angry and frustrated at the time it's taking to carry out tests that will reveal her fate.
There have been 11 Hendra virus outbreaks in horses in Australia. Four have led to human infection and three of the six people to contract it have died.
“I might have something that has killed three people,” she said. “But I can't have a test yet because there is a five-day incubation period.”
So, along with horseman Adrian Daniels, she's in self-imposed quarantine on the property.
“I've been told that if I get scrubbed with the right combination of chemicals, I can go home. But no one can give me any assurance that I am not carrying this disease, so how can I leave?”
With children aged 17 and 14, she's taking no chances, but she's not lost her sense of humour.
Asked how she was feeling, she said: “I have a headache, but that might be the beer.
“If anyone wants to leave a case of XXXX heavy at the front gate in lieu of flowers, that would be good.”
Debbie and vet Paul McCosker from Yeppoon called the Biosecurity Queensland hotline on Saturday when samples were taken from the horse.
The mare, Jackowah's Regal Princess, was being prepared for the Magic Millions performance horse sale.
The vet was first called on Thursday when it first showed signs of illness. By Friday it was gravely ill and a vet prescribed antibiotics.
Nursery co-owner John Brady said yesterday he feared other horses would have to be destroyed and told reporters he thought his business would be devastated.
Yesterday afternoon, as scientists carried out tests on the 30 horses at the nursery, a hurriedly scribbled sign warned visitors to stay away.
Next to it was a small official notice about the quarantine advising that anyone who enters the property faces a fine of 1000 penalty points and up to a year in prison.
Debbie said she was convinced the outbreak was caused by a bat defecating in the horses' water or feed.
“When the concerns were first raised on Saturday tests were carried out but it took 36 hours to get samples to a laboratory. I'm afraid that delay is unacceptable to me.”
Nursery owners John and Christine Brady have been in Brisbane and were not exposed to the affected horse.
But other staff were in direct contact.
The nursery keeps thoroughbreds and show horses and prepares clients' horses for breeding and sales.
There were a number of horses clearly visible from the road on the property yesterday.