Management of the slowly emerging zoonosis, Hendra virus, by private veterinarians in Queensland, Australia: a qualitative study

Mendez, Diana H., Kelly, Jenny, Buttner, Petra, Nowak, Madeleine, and Speare, Rick (2014) Management of the slowly emerging zoonosis, Hendra virus, by private veterinarians in Queensland, Australia: a qualitative study. BMC Veterinary Research, 10. 215. pp. 1-14.

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Background: Veterinary infection control for the management of Hendra virus (HeV), an emerging zoonosis in Australia, remained suboptimal until 2010 despite 71.4% (5/7) of humans infected with HeV being veterinary personnel or assisting a veterinarian, three of whom died before 2009. The aim of this study was to identify the perceived barriers to veterinary infection control and HeV management in private veterinary practice in Queensland, where the majority of HeV outbreaks have occurred in Australia.

Results: Most participants agreed that a number of key factors had contributed to the slow uptake of adequate infection control measures for the management of HeV amongst private veterinarians: a work culture characterised by suboptimal infection control standards and misconceptions about zoonotic risks; a lack of leadership and support from government authorities; the difficulties of managing biosecurity and public health issues from a private workforce perspective; and the slow pattern of emergence of HeV. By 2010, some infection control and HeV management changes had been implemented. Participants interviewed agreed that further improvements remained necessary; but also cautioned that this was a complex process which would require time.

Conclusion: Private veterinarians and government authorities prior to 2009 were unprepared to handle new slowly emerging zoonoses, which may explain their mismanagement of HeV. Slowly emerging zoonoses may be of low public health significance but of high significance for specialised groups such as veterinarians. Private veterinarians, who are expected to fulfil an active biosecurity and public health role in the frontline management of such emerging zoonoses, need government agencies to better recognise their contribution, to consult with the veterinary profession when devising guidelines for the management of zoonoses and to provide them with greater leadership and support. We propose that specific infection control guidelines for the management of slowly emerging zoonoses in private veterinary settings need to be developed.

Item ID: 35457
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1746-6148
Keywords: veterinarians, emerging infectious disease, zoonoses, hendra virus, infection control, management, behavioural change, Queensland
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This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

Funders: Australian Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre for Emerging Infectious Disease (AB-CRC), Anton Breinl Centre for Public Health and Tropical Medicine
Date Deposited: 29 Sep 2014 03:47
FoR Codes: 11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1117 Public Health and Health Services > 111799 Public Health and Health Services not elsewhere classified @ 75%
07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0707 Veterinary Sciences > 070799 Veterinary Sciences not elsewhere classified @ 25%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9204 Public Health (excl. Specific Population Health) > 920499 Public Health (excl. Specific Population Health) not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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