Hendra Case Confirmed in Queensland

One case of Hendra virus has been confirmed, while an exposed horse has tested negative for the disease in Queensland, Australia. Biosecurity Queensland confirmed the case May 20 and on May 21 reported initial negative tests for the second horse.

The first horse showed acute neurological signs and upon veterinary examination exhibited normal respiratory and heart rates, but was found to be blind, according to the Australian Horse Industry Council. The neurological signs developed into seizures, and the horse was euthanized. Once Hendra virus was confirmed, the second horse on the property was tested, and initial blood samples came back negative.

Biosecurity Queensland reports that the second horse remains quarantined until the period of virus incubation has passed and all tests have returned negative results.

"Biosecurity Queensland community engagement efforts have begun in Tewantin and will continue at surrounding locations over the weekend," said a press release from the organization.

Fruit bats (also called flying foxes) appear to be the natural host for the Hendra virus (HeV). The disease has only been reported in Australia, first in 1994, and is rare in that country. Ron Glanville, BSc, BVSc, MVS, chief veterinary officer for Biosecurity Queensland, said in an article for The Horse that his department tests about 200 horses a year with about a 1% positive rate, from an at-risk population of about 200,000.

Hendra virus can pass from horses to people. The fatality rate has been reported at more than 70% in horses and 50% in humans. Symptoms in horses can mimic other diseases, and people are most at risk handling sick horses before Hendra has been diagnosed. Fortunately, Hendra is more likely to occur in a single horse than affect several horses in a pasture.

According to the Biosecurity Queensland website: "HeV should be considered where there is rapid onset of illness, fever, increased heart rate, and rapid deterioration associated with either respiratory or neurological signs."

For further information, visit www.biosecurity.qld.gov.au.

About the Author

Tracy Gantz

Tracy Gantz is a freelance writer based in Southern California. She is the Southern California correspondent for The Blood-Horse and a regular contributor to Paint Horse Journal, Paint Racing News, and Appaloosa Journal.

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