Three New Hendra Cases, 19 Total, Confirmed in Australia

Three New Hendra Cases, 19 Total, Confirmed in Australia

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

Photo: Justin Welbergen

Three new cases of hendra virus were confirmed last night (Aug. 17) in New South Wales, Australia, bringing the state's total of confirmed cases to nine, according to a press release from the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries. The newly confirmed cases bring the national total to 19 since June, marking Australia's deadliest hendra virus season on record since the virus was discovered in 1994.

"Two horses have died on a South Ballina property, and one horse has died on a Mullumbimby property," New South Wales Chief Veterinary Officer Ian Roth said in the press release. "The dead horses on the South Ballina property were reported by a neighbor and sampled by a ... district vet. The horse on the Mullumbimby property was reportedly behaving oddly and died suddenly. A private veterinarian took blood and swab samples from the dead horse (that later confirmed the horse was infected with the virus)."

Roth noted in the release that both properties are currently under quarantine and movement restrictions have been placed on all other resident horses.

The three newly confirmed cases come on the tail of another horse testing positive for the virus on Tuesday (Aug. 16).

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) 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 three-day eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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