Sixth Case of Hendra Virus Diagnosed in New South Wales

Sixth Case of Hendra Virus Diagnosed in New South Wales

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

Photo: Justin Welbergen

A sixth horse has tested positive for hendra virus in New South Wales, Australia, bringing the national total to 16 confirmed cases since June, according to the Australian Veterinary Association.

"The property has been quarantined, and the infected horse has been euthanized and buried on the property," New South Wales Chief Veterinary Officer Ian Roth said in a press release. "There are two other at-risk horses on the quarantined property, both of which are currently showing no signs of illness."

Roth relayed in the press release that the horse became ill late on Sunday and his condition deteriorated during the night and into Monday.

"A private veterinarian took blood and swabs from the sick horse and sent the sample to New South Wales Department of Primary Industry's (DPI) Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute for laboratory analysis. Results confirmed the hendra virus last night," he said in the release.

Five New South Wales properties have been quarantined as a result of the virus. A biosecurity bulletin from the DPI released today (Aug. 17) indicated two of the five properties have been released from quarantine after the appropriate number of samples submitted from close contact horses and other animals on the property were confirmed to be negative for the virus.

In Queensland, the other currently affected state in Australia, the number of confirmed cases stands at 10.

Hendra virus (which has killed at least 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.

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, 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 eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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