Eighth Australian Horse Tests Positive for Hendra Virus

The total number of confirmed hendra cases has risen to eight after a horse died Tuesday (July 12) at a ranch in Queensland, Australia. Thirty additional horses living on the property have been quarantined, according to a report from ABC News Australia.

Six cases have now been confirmed in Queensland and two in New South Wales. The report noted that the new case was found in the northern part of Queensland, outside the region where the disease has traditionally been found.

Hendra virus (which has killed more than 40 horses since its discovery in 1994) 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 horse reportedly fell ill on July 10 and was seen by a veterinarian, who took samples for testing. ABC News indicated that the horse was depressed, ataxic, and displayed neurologic signs before dying yesterday.

The most recent affected horse was housed at a public trail riding stable, the report noted, so it's unclear just how many people had been in contact with the animal since it contracted the virus. Five ranch employees have been tested for the virus and are awaiting results.

The zoonotic disease is transmissible to humans and has killed four people since it was first discovered, including an equine veterinarian who contracted the virus after treating an affected foal in 2009.

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.

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from TheHorse.com. Learn More