Australian Horse Succumbs to Hendra Virus

Australian authorities confirmed June 28 that a Queensland horse has died after contracting hendra virus, according to a report from the Australia-based news website ABC News.

ABC News reported that the horse's veterinarian informed Queensland health and biosecurity officials June 28 that the horse, located south of Brisbane near Beaudesert, yielded a positive postmortem hendra virus test. The horse's home farm has been quarantined and residents in surrounding areas will be contacted, the report stated.

To date, the hendra virus has only been noted in the Australian states of Queensland and New South Wales. The zoonotic disease is transmissible to humans and has killed four people since it was first discovered in 1994, including an equine veterinarian who contracted the virus after treating an affected foal in 2009.

Hendra virus (which has killed at least 40 horses since its discovery) 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.

Researchers believe that flying foxes (a breed of bat native to Queensland and New South Wales) are responsible for spreading the disease to horses; however, the exact mode of transmission remains unclear.

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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