Hendra Virus: It’s Evolving

Fruit Bats and Hendra

The fruit bat, Hendra virus’ natural host.
Picture: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Will deadly Hendra virus become our next pandemic? With the way the virus is evolving it cannot be ruled out. History shows us that about 70% of pandemics originate in animals.

The Spanish flu that decimated the world at the end of World War I originated in pigs in a Spanish village. In its first go round in 1917 it was relatively mild. But the next bout in 1918-19 killed more people than had died during the entire war. And anyone who has made the most cursory study of WWI knows that it was absolute and utter carnage. On a scale to take the breath away. Unimaginable! And the Spanish Flu was worse!

Like every other horse owner, I don’t need any more expenses this year. Poor seasons, poor markets take a toll on all of us. But now that live Hendra virus has been found in dead fruit bats in Adelaide, I know that it is time– time to take a look at the big picture – time to vaccinate.

The fruit bat, or Flying Fox, Hendra virus’ natural host, ranges all over Australia, except for desert areas. All our horses are in danger, and by deduction, us and our dogs.

Lets take a brief overview: (more info here)

First found in 1994 in the racing stables of Vic Rail, where it killed him and 14 of his horses. Since then there have been several outbreaks:

In 1995 the virus took the life of a Mackay farmer and in 2008 and 2009 two Qld vets.

Between 1994 and 2010 there were 14 clusters of Hendra virus.

In 2011 in Qld and NSW there were 18 outbreaks with 24 cases in horses and 1 dog. 2011 also chalked up another sinister first. The first case of Hendra in Chinchilla blowing the myth that Hendra virus would not come west of the divide and that our inland horses are safe. No horse is safe!

Now in 2013, the horrifying thing is not only that there have so far been 9 outbreaks in horses ranging from the North coast and tableland of Qld to Kempsey and Macksville in NSW, including another dreadful first, NSW’s first dog, but the virus has changed its clinical signs. Where once the signs were:

  • High temperature

  • Neurological

  • Respiratory

    The latest signs have included:

  • No rise in temperature

  • Founder or shifting lameness of the feet

  • Colic

    This means that none of us will know if our horses have contracted this deadly virus until it is too late. Over 50% of humans catching the virus have died.

    I cannot believe that any of us would put a value of less than $100 (the price of the vaccine at our local vet clinic) on our children, ourselves, our vets, horses and dogs.

    Please, take this warning from history and vaccinate your horses. The potential of this virus is too horrifying to contemplate.

Drunk and Ugly? Not Australia

Drunk Penguin

Drunk and Ugly? Not Australia. Picture from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The phenomenon that is social media. I came to it late. It still gives me a thrill to send messages to friends and get replies within seconds. I feel their warm presences on the internet and I love it. We can share, chat, keep in touch, advertise. It has a multiplicity of purposes. How easy to drop a quick hello to a friend, letting them know you are there and you care.

The Prime Minister is using it to the hilt. And why not? In the same spirit, I would urge him to stop prancing about, issuing challenges to debate the Opposition leader.

We don’t want to hear your clever phraseology, Mr Rudd. We want you to get on with governing the country. We want to know if we can trust you with it. And we don’t need to see your shaving cuts either. It’s not a good look. I know Norman Gunston made a mint out of it, but …

Recent and recurrent personal attacks on celebrities show this wonderful tool has a dark side. I am amazed at the extent of the venom against Julia Gillard, for example, when she was PM. Again the personal attack. Does the office of Prime Minister of Australia hold no inherent respect?

Could the disrespect shown to her by her own colleagues have more to do with the way she shafted Kevin Rudd than the fact that she is a woman? Who disrespects Aung Sung Su-Kyi: the ultimate female politician?

Whatever the reason, personal vilification on social media must not be tolerated.

The Windsor and Oakeshott families called it ‘ugly Australia’, having at great personal cost borne the vilification of the political decisions of Tony and Rob.

We can all get up on social media and vent our spleens. Does anyone listen? Does anybody care?

Well, under certain circumstances they might. Print laws have not caught up with digital media. But they will. And your words will be up there forever, haunting your future. A snare to bring you down when you’ve reached the top.

Maybe we should have a breathalyser on the mouse or the on-button of a tablet to stop disgruntled ramblings after a night at the pub. Young people also need to be protected from using the internet as a photo diary to bare all. Remember, it is up there forever.

There is the much-publicised tweet by a disgusted viewer of the appalling spectacle that is now Question Time in Federal Parliament, telling Australia to ‘go home.’ How embarrassing!

I can remember (just) when politicians were hysterically funny. Question time in the House was high entertainment. They beat each other with fine wit and humour. We admired their clever use of words, enjoyed their ‘duels’.

Then we got ‘scumbags’ etc. The days of gentlemen (and women) in politics were over, with personal vilification entering the lists. Back then, they played the ball. Now they play the ‘man’. Has it filtered down into all our lives?

Just lately, I’ve heard too many criticisms of our beautiful Australia. Drunk, childish, irresponsible, whatever … And all because a few frustrated, incontinent people cannot control their verbiage. Trolls on the internet. Spite and malice are ugly, not Australia. Individuals are drunk, not Australia.

Let’s not forget the doctors, nurses, carers, vets and all the kind people who don’t get on social media and shout their prowess or their complaints to the world. They don’t have time. Like the farmers, they are too busy doing what they have to do for those in their care.

Twitter (Oxford Dictionary) – a succession of light tremulous sounds. I would add: pleasing to the ear.

Let’s not have to rename it.