First Hendra Case of 2012 Confirmed in Queensland

A deceased horse on a property in the Townsville area of Queensland, Australia, has returned a positive test result for hendra virus infection. Queensland Chief Veterinary Officer Rick Symons, BVSc, MBA, PhD, said the horse showed rapid onset of illness: "The horse died on Tuesday (Jan. 3) and the positive result for the virus came back late last night (Jan. 4).

"The veterinarian who attended the horse used the proper precautions including the use of personal protective equipment," Symons continued. "Biosecurity Queensland is in the process of quarantining this property and will test and monitor the other five horses at this location over the next month."

Symons said although hendra virus cases in the middle of summer (North American winters coincide with Australian summers) are unusual, they're not unheard of.

"There was a previous case in the Townsville area in December 2004," he said. "Even though the majority of cases tend to occur in the July to September period, we have consistently said that hendra virus infection can occur throughout the year.

"Horse owners should not be complacent and as much as possible keep horses away from areas where there is flying fox activity," he continued. "We will deal with this latest case just as we have with previous cases through a process of quarantine, testing and monitoring. In each Hendra virus incident the property has been isolated and there has been no spread of the infection to another property."

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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