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Neurological disease in horses in Australia

The New South Wales Chief Veterinary Officer has issued a bulletin to veterinarians describing cases of unexplained neurological disease found in horses in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. The Victorian Department of Primary Industries has also issued an alert. As horses are regularly imported from Australia to New Zealand, New Zealand veterinarians should also be aware of this information.


The first cases were seen about two weeks ago, and it is possible that they are due to an infection with an arbovirus. Hendra virus has been ruled out in the NSW cases. The initial onset of clinical signs is reported in NSW as depression and mild colic, followed by onset of neurological signs, without respiratory involvement in cases reported so far.


The clinical presentation has varied from animals with extreme hyperaethesia, a hypermetric gait and difficulty masticating to others that are quadaparetic or 'wobbly'. Most appear to be recovering slowly, although it is reported that two cases in Victoria have died and one horse has been euthanased in NSW.


If practitioners see horses, especially those recently imported from Australia, with similar clinical signs to those described above, or other clinical signs that raise concern about a new or exotic disease, they should report them to the MAF exotic pest and disease hotline, 0800 80 99 66.


- NSW MAF