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Animals hit by virus

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March 01, 2017

The Ross River epidemic that has now spread across the state to Melbourne is not only affecting people.

Benalla vet Peter Bartram has been treating an alpaca at Baddaginnie that has been struck down with the virus and is warning pet owners that the virus can be debilitating to some animals.

‘‘It’s in a herd of approximately 100 alpacas and none of the other alpacas have been affected,’’ Dr Bartram said.

‘‘The reservoir for Ross River virus is supposed to be large marsupials and placental mammals, so kangaroos, wallabies, people, horses, alpacas can all be carriers of it to some extent, but not all animals that get Ross River virus get severely affected by it.

‘‘It can be very debilitating and it lasts a minimum of three months.

‘‘The alpaca we diagnosed three months ago and it’s been an extensive treatment and it’s still quite unwell.

‘‘It’s likely to recover, but I expect it’s going to take 12 months and make a 90 per cent recovery.

‘‘It presented very similarly to what a human would.

‘‘It had as best as you could determine, malaise, lethargy, separated itself from the other animals, acutely lame in two legs and had swelling of the tendon sheaths and joints and we considered Ross River virus and did a range of diagnostics to rule out other things and when we did blood testing for the virus it was profoundly positive.’’

As with humans, there are no medications developed to specifically treat the virus in animals.

‘‘It’s had quite intensive treatment with anti-inflammatory medications and medications to provide lubrication in its joints,’’ Dr Bartram said.

‘‘It’s slightly improving and becoming more ambulatory.

‘‘It’s going to take a long time to turn around.

‘‘We were fortunate enough to see animals with similar neurological signs in previous years, so we had Ross River virus as a possibility.

‘‘The only precautionary measure you can take is to minimise the exposure of your pet to the vector, which is going to be a biting, flying insect like a mosquito, so having your pet in an area that is sheltered from mosquitoes in the evening or the early morning will minimise any exposure.

‘‘Beyond that there’s little you can do — there’s no vaccine, there’s no specific treatment.

‘‘Certainly horses and cows can get it.

‘‘Horses, you’d keep their (summer) rugs on, preferably you would use a rug that also had a neck hood on it.

‘‘You can stable them away from the exposure, that will minimise the effect.’’

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