A Gunnedah vet is urging residents to vaccinate their horses, after a mare was put down in Scone on Wednesday night after it contracted the Hendra virus.
The bat-borne disease can be caught by humans as well, and has proven fatal in almost all known cases. The closest it has been to Gunnedah prior to the case in Scone was Kempsey, on the state's coast.
Gunnedah Veterinary Hospital's Dr David Amos said the Hendra virus reaching Gunnedah was not "a case of if, but when".
"We do have flying foxes here and we do know that they carry the virus: there's been tests done in this area. Therefore, it's only a matter of time ... it's a very sporadic disease, which means if your horse gets it, it will die and ... then you'll probably get it and you'll probably die, too," Dr Amos said.
"Very few will get it, but all of the horses and most of the people who get it will die."
Dr Amos urged people to get their horses vaccinated to avoid the potentially fatal risk.
"There is a lot of misinformation getting around that vaccinations kill horses but, to the best of my knowledge, there's no proven cases that this is true ... to me, [getting the vaccination is] a no-brainer," he said.
Aside from vaccination, Dr Amos said one basic way to avoid the virus was to choose carefully where to feed a horse.
"Avoid feeding horses under trees, especially flowering trees, [because] ... the foxes might roost in them [and their] excretion can end up in the horses feed," he said.
I just want to keep horses and people and myself from getting it, not because it's likely to happen but because the consequences of you getting it is you'll die or you'll no longer be the person you were.Gunnedah Veterinary Hospital's Dr David Amos.
The Gunnedah vet told the NVI warning signs for the Hendra virus were "really variable" but could include neurological signs, where the horse may "be a bit staggery, not aware, and a bit depressed".
"Hendra virus will cause colic-like signs, [such as] rolling around, and pawing at the ground," Dr Amos said.
"But it's difficult to diagnose."
The case has also raised questions about how it will affect the horse sports world.
In Tamworth, Australian Equine and Livestock Events Centre (AELEC) manager Mike Rowland said to see a Hendra case so close to home was a reminder to the local equine industry to remain vigilant.
"There is no doubt from a venue perspective this is a significant concern," he said.
As a venue, AELEC doesn't dictate conditions to organisations, other than asking them to follow the rules set down the by NSW government, which at the moment do not mandate Hendra virus vaccinations for competitions and events.
"However, what will doing once we've learn what has happened in this incidence, is sitting down with our major event organisations and looking at what each of our practises are from both a venue and organisation point of view are to see if they continue to be suitable in light of this," Mr Rowland said.
Dr Amos said his bottom line was to get the vaccination, because while "there's a cost involved, compared to losing your horse and losing your life, it's almost negligible".
"I just want to keep horses and people and myself from getting it, not because it's likely to happen but because the consequences of you getting it is you'll die or you'll no longer be the person you were."