Horse disease still a mystery

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian

The cause of a disease that caused lesions in the mouths of horses and humans in the South West looks set to remain a mystery unless another outbreak sparks more testing.

The Health Department and the Department of Agriculture and Food WA said yesterday that they were winding up investigations.

The probes, which began in June, failed to find the cause of the disease, which caused mild ill-health and bumps on the gums and tongues of horses and humans.

A dozen people reported the mouth lesions or other symptoms after coming into contact with horses carrying the disease discovered on three properties in the South West by Pinjarra veterinarian Michael Gibbs and his staff.

The people and horses affected have recovered.

DAFWA said samples from horses were tested by the Australian Animal Health Laboratories and its Animal Health Laboratories.

The testing failed to identify a viral or other infectious disease.

The Health Department conducted blood and tissue tests on what it suspected was a virus but could not identify an infection agent.

The Communicable Disease Control Directorate co-ordinated the Health Department's response with the help of the South Metropolitan Public Health Unit, PathWest laboratory services and local GPs.

The Health Department said it remained unclear if the disease was transmitted from horses to humans or from humans to the horses.

The directorate reported the circumstances to disease control units in other States, the NT and to the Commonwealth Department of Health.

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