Hendra Virus is close to being the most lethal virus on our planet. The Hendra Virus fatality rate is over 50%. Of the people who have been infected and recovered the majority of these people continue to suffer the debilitating effects of severe post viral compromise and are unable to work. Likewise for an infected horse the fatality rate is 100% that is, if they do not die from the infection, the Government requires their euthanasia as there is the possibility of the virus being latent in their system and recrudescing or becoming active again later on in time.
There are no treatment options for infection with Hendra Virus. The only prevention apart from wise and careful management is to vaccinate your horse(s).
1) Is the vaccine safe?
The vaccine is called a “sub- unit” vaccine. This means that it only contains a small replicated part of the Hendra virus, a protein copied from the virus surface. As there is no complete, actual Hendra virus in the vaccine, it cannot cause disease in your horse, YOU or any other animal. It does however confer excellent immunity to properly vaccinated horses.
The vaccine has been released under special approval in an effort to get horses protected as soon as possible. It must be administered by a vet under strict guidelines by the AVPMA.
Sufficient testing has been done to ensure the vaccine is safe and effective however. The duration of immunity conferred by the vaccine after the intial course of shots is 12 months. Horses require annual vaccination to maintain their immunity. The vaccine has been registered with the AVPMA.
The vaccine has been tested on breeding animals – mares and stallions. It has been found to be safe in breeding mares however current reccomendations are to avoid vaccination in the first 45 days of pregnancy and the last 2 weeks prior to foaling.
2) What is the program?
Two vaccinations are given, 21 to 42 days apart – there is no exception to this time due to the strict guidelines we are working under... The horse must be microchipped. This can be done at the same time if not already done. A 6 month booster is then required, followed by annual boosters for ongoing protection. Our vets can perform a wellness check at the same time as the annual booster is administered.
3) Are there any side effects:
Apart from the possibility of transient swelling at the site of injection after the second injection there is unlikely to be any reaction. No treatment is required. Any medicine, including vaccines can have side effects such as a rise in temp. allergic skin lumps, difficult breathing, collapse. None of these were seen in horses vaccinated with Hendra virus.