Several Hendra Cases Confirmed in New South Wales Horses

The New South Wales (NSW), Australia, Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has confirmed at least three new equine hendra virus cases in the past week.

On July 6, the DPI reported that a 6-year-old gelding residing in Macksville tested positive for hendra; that property was subsequently quarantined. At the time, the department said two other horses, three dogs, and two cats residing on the property would be monitored for disease.

On July 8, the DPI indicated that test results from a deceased 18-year-old mare located west of Kempsey were positive for hendra virus. In a release, NSW Acting Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Therese Wright said, “The horse was noticeably ill on Thursday (July 4) and was showing neurological changes, including loss of balance and staggering. The property has now been quarantined and a second horse on the property has been vaccinated, sampled, and will continue to be monitored by a Livestock Health and Pest Authority (LHPA) veterinarian.”

Wright said the mare had not been vaccinated against hendra.

And today (July 10), the DPI reported that another horse from a second Kempsey-area property has tested positive for the virus.

“The 13 year-old Quarter Horse was not doing well, had become dull and reluctant to move, and was treated with a course of antibiotics,” Wright said. “The horse’s condition deteriorated rapidly on Monday (July 8) with neurological changes, aimless wandering, jaundice, and fever, and it was sampled by a private veterinarian.

“A second in-contact horse will be vaccinated and will be closely monitored by a LHPA veterinarian," she continued. “The horse will be tested three times before the property is released from quarantine. Tracing is also under way to determine if any horses have left the property in recent weeks.”

In today's statement, Wright also said New South Wales authorities are encouraging horse owners to vaccinate their horses against the hendra virus.

“Vaccinating your horse is the single most effective way of protecting you and yourself from the hendra virus,” she said.

The deadly hendra virus has been known to yield numerous clinical signs in horses including respiratory distress, frothy nasal discharge, elevated body temperature (above 40°C, or 104°F), and elevated heart rate; however, authorities caution that hendra infection does not have specific signs. The virus is transmitted to horses from the flying fox, a type of Australian fruit bat.

Hendra virus is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be transmitted from horses to humans; several humans that contracted the virus from horses have died since hendra was discovered in 1994.

About the Author

Erica Larson, News Editor

Erica Larson, news editor, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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