New Equine Hendra Case Confirmed near Gladstone, Queensland

New Equine Hendra Case Confirmed near Gladstone, Queensland

The hendra virus

Photo: Courtesy CSIRO Livestock Industries' Australian Animal Health Laboratory

Biosecurity Queensland has quarantined a property near Gladstone, Queensland, Australia, after a deceased horse tested positive for hendra virus infection late Friday (July 18).

Chief Veterinary Officer Allison Crook, BVSc MACVSc, said the horse had been unwell for a number of days and was found dead on Thursday (July 17).

“Tracing and exposure assessments are being undertaken on other horses that may have had contact with the infected horse to determine if further testing needs to be done," Crook said. "The property has been quarantined which means restrictions apply to moving horses and horse materials on and off the property. The quarantine will be in place for at least one month.”

Queensland Health is following up all human contacts. At this stage it appears no one is at serious risk.

Crook said this is the third case of hendra virus in Queensland horses this year.

"Hendra virus infection can occur throughout the year, so it’s important that horse owners take steps to protect themselves and their animals at all times,” she said. "The affected horse had not been vaccinated. Vaccination is the single most effective way of reducing the risk of hendra virus infection in horses. It is recommended that horse owners speak to their veterinarian about vaccinating their horses.

"If a horse becomes sick, owners should contact their veterinarian immediately," she continued. "People in contact with horses need to remember to continue to practice good biosecurity and personal hygiene measures even if a horse is vaccinated against hendra virus.”

The deadly hendra virus 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 virus is transmitted to horses from the flying fox, a type of Australian fruit bat.

Hendra virus is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be transmitted from horses to humans; several humans that contracted the virus from horses have died since hendra was discovered in 1994.

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