Hendra Virus: Latest Confirmed Case Brings 2011 Total to 23

Less than a week after a horse in the Caboolture area of Queensland, Australia, was euthanized after contracting hendra virus, another horse from the same property has tested positive for the dangerous ailment, bringing the nation's total to 23 confirmed cases since June. The most recently confirmed horse was euthanized after test results returned positive.

"Three horses have now died at this property in the past fortnight," said Queensland Chief Veterinary Officer Rick Symons, BVSc, MBA, PhD, in a press release. "One was euthanized almost two weeks ago after becoming seriously ill and being diagnosed as suffering from colic. No samples from that horse are available for testing, and we will not be able to confirm if that horse was actually infected by hendra virus."

Symons indicated that the affected property would remain under quarantine until "at least late November."

A total of 13 horses have now died of hendra in Queensland this year; another 10 have died as a result of the virus in New South Wales.

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.

Scientists believe the virus is transmitted to horses from flying foxes, a type of fruit bat that frequents Australia, but the exact method of transmission remains unclear.

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.

Earlier this year Australian researchers announced that a hendra virus vaccine is nearing completion, and it could be available to consumers within a few years if final testing is successful.

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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