New Hendra Virus Case Confirmed in Mackay, Qld.

Biosecurity Queensland is managing a new case of hendra virus near Mackay, Queensland, Australia, after a positive test result was received last night (June 27).

Queensland Chief Veterinary Officer Rick Symons, BVSc, MBA, PhD, said the property manager contacted a veterinarian after discovering the horse was gravely ill on Tuesday (June 26). After the veterinarian took samples, the horse was euthanized.

"There are a number of other animals including horses on the property and on adjoining properties," Symons said. "Tracing is a priority to determine what contact the infected horse had with other animals on all properties.

"Biosecurity Queensland officers are on the property this morning and are in the process of quarantining," he continued. "Restrictions will apply to moving horses and horse materials on and off the infected property, and the property will be quarantined for at least one month."

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.

Queensland Health's Public Health experts have assessed the situation and determined only one person has had contact with the infected horse. This person has been assessed as having low-level exposure to the horse. This person wore personal protective equipment and took other appropriate precautions.

Queensland Health's Senior Director Communicable Diseases Christine Selvey, MB, BS, MSc, reassured the community that transmission of the virus required close contact with body fluids of an infected horse.

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

Symons said this latest case was the fourth Hendra virus incident in Queensland this year. Previous incidents include one in Townsville in January and two in May--one in Ingham and one in Rockhampton.

"Testing is continuing on both the Ingham and Rockhampton properties which are still under quarantine," he said. "Horse owners need to remain vigilant in taking steps to reduce the risk of infection as Hendra virus can occur year round but is more common during the cooler months. If a horse becomes sick, owners should contact their veterinarian immediately as happened in this case."

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