Two Hendra Virus Cases Confirmed in Queensland

Queensland, Australia, authorities are managing two new hendra virus cases--one near Rockhampton and the other near Ingham--after positive test results were received late last night (May 29).

Queensland Chief Veterinary Officer Rick Symons, BVSc, MBA, PhD, said a horse died on Saturday on the property near Rockhampton with test results confirming the horse had hendra virus. There are other horses on the property, he said, and the remaining animals were assessed today (May 30).

Symons said a horse had also died on a property in Ingham on Monday with results confirming it had hendra virus infection. Five horses remain on this property and were assessed today, he said.

"Biosecurity Queensland is in the process of quarantining the properties and will test and monitor the other horses at these locations over the next month," Symons said. "Tracing will be a priority to determine what contact the deceased horses may have had with other animals. Movement restrictions will apply to moving horses and horse materials on and off the infected properties."

Queensland Health's Public Health experts will travel to both properties today to assess the situation and determine whether any humans had contact with the infected horses and require testing.

Queensland's Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young, MB, BS, FRACMA, FFPH, reassured the community that transmission of the virus required close contact with body fluids of the sick horse.

"Queensland Health staff will continue to undertake contact tracing work to ensure all people potentially exposed to the sick horse have been identified," Young said. "Queensland Health stands ready to provide any assistance, counseling, information, testing or treatment that may be required."

Since the start of 2011 until now there have been 11 hendra virus incidents in Queensland resulting in the death or euthanasia of 14 horses and one dog. In January, one horse in Queensland tested positive for hendra virus, bringing the total number of cases in Australia during the 2012 calendar year to three.

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 Australian Veterinary Association suggested that horse owners can reduce the risks of hendra virus in their horses by fencing off trees attractive to flying foxes, covering horse feed and water containers, and not feeding horses food that could appeal to flying foxes, such as fruit and vegetables.

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