Hendra Virus Confirmed in Dog

Hendra Virus Confirmed in Dog

Researchers know the flying fox transmits the deadly hendra virus to horses, but the exact method of transmission remains unclear.

Photo: Justin Welbergen

The Australian hendra virus outbreak took an unexpected turn yesterday (July 26) when a dog on one of the hendra-affected properties in southern Queensland tested positive for the virus. This is the first time the disease has been noted outside a laboratory in a species other than a horse, human, or flying fox, according to a report from the Australian news website ABC.

The report indicates that the dog belongs to the owner of several horses that tested positive for hendra virus. Although the dog produced two negative hendra tests, a different type of test conducted at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory confirmed the dog had antibodies for the disease.

Rick Symons, BVSc, MBA, PhD, Queensland's chief veterinary officer, relayed in the article that the antibodies mean the dog has been exposed to the virus, but is not showing any outward signs of illness. He also noted that there is "minimal risk" of the affected dog infecting humans.

A total of 14 horses have died or been euthanized as a result of hendra virus outbreak in Australia since late June. This year the disease has been confirmed in the westernmost and southernmost points it has ever been identified.

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.

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 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.

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 three-day eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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