Hendra Virus Infects Australian Veterinarian

A Thoroughbred veterinarian infected by the killer Hendra virus was admitted to a hospital in Queensland Aug. 27. The vet contracted the virus after performing an autopsy on a Thoroughbred in his clinic last week.

There are reportedly two known current cases of Hendra in the Thoroughbred population in Queensland.

While believed unrelated to the EI currently sweeping Australia, an outbreak of Hendra has even greater personal ramifications for humans. Whereas EI cannot kill humans, Hendra can and has. Trainer Vic Rail was killed by Hendra in 1991.

In June 2006, the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) urged horse owners in southeast Queensland to keep feed and water under cover and to stable horses overnight where possible, following the identification of Hendra virus in a horse on the Sunshine Coast.

An AVA spokesperson at the time said the disease is not highly contagious, and that the public health risk from the disease is limited to those who have exposure to horses' body fluids. They noted the disease is rare and sporadic. However, the disease can be transmitted to humans.

Hendra virus causes symptoms of respiratory illness in horses, including respiratory distress, frothy nasal discharge, and elevated body temperature and heart rate. Horse owners are urged to stable horses at night and to call a veterinarian as soon as possible if they symptoms appear.

It is believed fruit bats are the natural host of the virus, formerly known as equine morbillivirus. The virus can be lethal when transmitted to humans and horses.

About the Author

Ric Chapman

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