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Guideline Revised for Hendra Virus VaccineBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · June 18, 2013

A vaccine to protect horses in Australia from Hendra virus was developed recently, and ongoing research has led to an amended guideline for use of the vaccine. The second dose of Equivac HeV can now be administered any time between three and six weeks after the first dose, according to Biosecurity Queensland personnel.

Horses receiving the vaccinations are protected for at least six months, and studies are working to find proof that protection actually lasts up to 12 months. Though vaccination is the best line of defense against this disease, horse owners are still urged to use good personal hygiene and biosecurity measures when working around diseased horses. Hendra virus, which is spread by large fruit-eating bats known as flying foxes, can be transferred from infected horses to humans that are involved in their care. The disease is fatal in 100% of horses and in more than half the humans who become ill.

Zoetis, the drug company that developed the vaccine, is offering to provide the second required dose without cost through participating veterinarians until the end of July to encourage owners to protect their animals before the peak season for the virus. The vaccine can be administered to any horse that is at least four months old. Horse owners should visit the company’s website for terms and conditions of the free vaccine offer.