Background: Hendra virus (HeV) is endemic in Australian flying foxes, posing a threat to equine and human health. Equine vaccination remains the most effective risk mitigation strategy. Many horses remain unvaccinated – even in higher-risk regions. Debate surrounding the vaccine's use is characterised by conflicting perspectives, misunderstanding and mistrust. Private veterinary practitioners are critical to early identification of public health risk through recognition, sampling and management of suspect-equine-HeV-cases. However, managing such cases can be burdensome, with some veterinarians opting not to attend unvaccinated horses or to abandon equine practice because of risk posed by HeV disease and liability.
Objective: Ascertain the perspectives of informed citizens on what obligations (if any) private veterinarians have to attend unvaccinated horses with HeV or HeV-like disease.
Methods: Three citizens' juries were tasked with considering approaches to managing HeV risk in Australia, including (reported here) roles and obligations of private veterinarians in responding to HeV-suspect-cases.
Results: Jurors acknowledged that HeV management posed an important challenge for private veterinarians. A clear majority (27 of 31 jurors) voted that veterinarians should not be obliged to attend unvaccinated horses. All recognised that greater support for veterinarians should be a priority.
Conclusions: When informed of HeV risks and strategies for control and management, citizens appreciated the need to support veterinarians performing this critical ‘One Health’ role for public benefit. The current governance framework within which zoonotic disease recognition and response operates limits the contingency and scope for increasing support and efficacy of these important veterinary public health practices.
- community-based participatory research
- Hendra virus
- One health
- syndromic surveillance