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Next steps - assessing the risk of exposure to potential pathogens

You decided to call the EAD hotline as, based on the signalment and history, you have a significant zoonotic disease on your list of differentials. Initially, you were concerned that maybe you were overreacting by even considering Hendra virus in this area, but after the phone call you are confident you made the right decision. The EAD hotline was appreciative of your call and extremely useful! The main things they reminded you of were to:

  • Use a high level PPE (making sure you consult a senior colleague if you had minimal or no prior experience with the use of PPE)
  • Confirm the movement history of the horse in question and other horses on the property
  • Identify other animals on the property and their interaction with the horse in question
  • Inform your local Public Health Unit; they will then assess the case and make a decision regarding if/how the owner should be monitored
  • Provide the owner with information on Hendra virus. DPI NSW has a useful factsheet (PDF)

After your phone call you head out to the property intending to use a high level PPE.

Being aware of the gravity of this situation, you quickly review your practice’s Work Health and Safety policy (see NSW Department of Primary Industries - Hendra virus Work Health and Safety responsibilities (PDF) for further information). You may be dealing with a neurological issue and a high biosecurity risk - you realise that you cannot be confident of normal behaviour. Thinking ahead to safe restraint of the horse during examination, you speak with the boss and together decide it best to take a vet nurse from your clinic to assist with restraint. Seems it’s a good thing all the clinic staff had to attend that PPE training a few months back!

You pack the car with the PPE equipment for you and the nurse and ensure that you are aware of the samples required to diagnose Hendra virus and their storage requirements.

For further information on the tests available at the State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in NSW go here.

When you reach the property, you find a dry place to lay your kit out (this is hard, given the amount of rain that has occurred in recent weeks) and both you and the vet nurse get suited up.

Resources for further reading are found in AVA’s Guidelines for Veterinary Personal Biosecurity (PDF download) and the Blue Book.