Bundaberg vet charged in landmark Hendra virus case

FACING COURT: Bundaberg vet Luke Annetts is accused of putting two other people at risk during the treatment and burial of a horse with Hendra virus at South Kolan last year.
FACING COURT: Bundaberg vet Luke Annetts is accused of putting two other people at risk during the treatment and burial of a horse with Hendra virus at South Kolan last year. GREG MILLER

BUNDABERG veterinarian Luke Annetts is one of the first veterinarians in Queensland to be prosecuted under the Workplace Health and Safety Act.

Dr Annetts will face the Bundaberg Magistrates Court next month following a complaint involving potential exposure to Hendra virus risks at a private property in South Kolan last year.

Dr Annetts, who works for Vet Cross, is one of three Queensland vets preparing to face court in landmark cases under the act; the others are Matthew Morahan from Brisbane and Janine Dwyer from the Gold Coast.

A spokesman from the Office of Industrial Relations said all three cases "are in the early stages of proceedings".

Dr Annetts was a worker at Katrina Cres, South Kolan, who had a health and safety duty under the act and it is alleged he failed to comply with the duty.

It is alleged the failure, while tending to a four-year-old quarter horse known as Missy, exposed people to a risk of death or serious injury or illness.

The people alleged to be placed at risk are Peter Nijkamp, David Zunker and Dr Annetts himself.

Mr Nijkamp is alleged to have been in the general proximity between March 15 and 17 last year for the purposes of handling a horse alleged to be reasonably suspected of having Hendra.

Dr Annetts is accused of providing Mr Nijkamp with a syringe containing antibiotic medication on March 15 last year to administer to the horse on March 16 and thereafter if required in the absence of Dr Annetts.

On this advice, it is alleged Mr Nijkamp administered one injection into the neck muscle of the horse in the morning on Sunday, March 16, and another in the same evening.

Dr Annetts then terminated the horse's life by euthanisia on the evening of Monday, March 17.

Mr Zunker then provided excavation services to Mr Nijkamp for the burial of the horse at the South Kolan property the next day.

It is alleged Dr Annetts failed to adopt precautions and conduct a risk assessment of possible Hendra dangers based on the horse's clinical presentation and immunisation status as decsribed in numerous guidlines on the topic.

Dr Annetts is further accused of failing to implement any adequate Hendra protocol as provided by Biosecurity Queensland.

Dr Annetts was yesterday unable to be reached for comment.

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Topics:  bundaberg magistrate's court euthanasia hendra virus horse

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