Queensland Reports First Equine Hendra Case of 2015

Queensland Reports First Equine Hendra Case of 2015

The Hendra virus.

Photo: Courtesy CSIRO Livestock Industries' Australian Animal Health Laboratory

Australian horse owners are reminded to take steps to protect their animals from the risk of Hendra virus infection with the confirmation of a new case on the Atherton Tablelands in Queensland.

Queensland’s Chief Veterinary Officer Allison Crook, BVSc, MACVSc, said a property had been quarantined after a horse died on the site earlier this week.

"Testing has confirmed the horse had the virus," she said. "This is the first case of Hendra virus detected in Queensland this year.

"There are a number of other horses on the property and we'll be monitoring them over the coming weeks,” she continued. “Biosecurity staff will also be conducting tracing to confirm whether this horse had any contact with other horses in the area. While the property is under quarantine, there are restrictions on the movement of horses and materials on and off the property."

Crook said Hendra virus infection can occur throughout the year, so it is important that horse owners take steps to protect themselves and their animals at all times.

"Vaccination is the best defense against Hendra virus infection and horse owners should discuss their options with their veterinarian," she said.

"If a horse becomes sick, owners should contact their veterinarian immediately,” she added. “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."

Hendra virus has been known to yield numerous clinical signs in horses including lethargy, 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 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.

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