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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hendra-Infected Australian Vet Ben Cunneen Dies in Hospital

Ben Cunneen, a 33-year-old veterinarian at Redlands Equine Clinic outside Brisbane, Queensland in Australia, died last week from complications of the Hendra virus. Cunneen treated a horse at the clinic that was infected with the virus. Other staff members at the clinic have been hospitalized or are being closely monitored.

A statement on the clinic's web page reads:

It is with sorrow that we advise the passing of our friend and colleague Ben Cunneen.

Ben had been seriously ill in hospital after contracting the Hendra virus during the current outbreak at our clinic. Ben passed away peacefully at the Princess Alexandra Hospital on Wednesday 20th August 2008.

All of us at the Redlands Vet Clinic will miss him greatly. Ben was a fun loving, caring and enthusiastic person and each and every one of us enjoyed working with him every day.

Our love and best wishes go out to his wife, family and friends.

Hendra is a deadly virus spread by fox bats. An outbreak in 1994, also near Brisbane, cost two humans their lives.

Initial research has been completed at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong in Victoria and further work has been done in Atlanta in the United States, according to the Department of Primary Industry's chief vet, Ron Glanville.

But "commercial considerations" might prevent this vaccine ever making it to the market, he told a press conference following the death of Ben Cunneen.

A lockdown on the Redlands Equine Clinic was lifted yesterday and some horses were discharged.

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