Mystery malady

Published: Monday 15 January 1996

AS IF AIDS, Ebola and the Achuapa Febrile Syndrome were not enough, it is now the turn of a mysterious viral disease whose outbreak in Australia is not only proving deadly for the horses but also for humans. Australian scientists are now grappling on ways and means to deal with the onslaught which has so far claimed 14 horses and two men.

What has worried the scientists is that the virus, identified as a morbillivirus, which they considered to be under control is now turning into an ominous threat. It manifested first in horses leading to their twitching and subsequent filling of lungs with blood and fluids, choking them to death. Vic Rail, a renowned horse trainer, also lost his life in a similar manner. So did Mark Preston, an Australian horse farmer. The virus caused the cells lining the lung blood vessels to bundle together creating holes in the lung walls, which caused the fluid to leak into the lungs.

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