Queensland, Australia, Reports its First 2017 Hendra Case

Queensland, Australia, Reports its First 2017 Hendra Case

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.

Photo: iStock

Biosecurity Queensland is managing a new Hendra virus case in a horse in the Gold Coast Hinterland area of Australia after receiving a positive test result on May 26.

Queensland Chief Biosecurity Officer Dr. Jim Thompson said one horse had been euthanized on the property after rapid deterioration.

“Tracing and risk assessments are being undertaken on any animals that may have had contact with the infected horse to work out if further testing needs to be done,” Thompson said.

“We will work with the property owners to ensure the risk is contained on the property.”

Queensland Health's Public Health experts are assessing the situation to determine if any humans had contact with the infected horse and stand ready to provide any assistance, counseling, information, testing, or treatment that might be required.

Thompson said this was the first case of Hendra virus in Queensland 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,” he said. "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.”

The deceased horse had not received a Hendra virus vaccination.

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

According to the World Health Organization, Hendra virus infection is a rare emerging zoonosis that causes severe and often fatal disease in both infected horses and humans. The natural host of the virus has been identified as being fruit bats of the Pteropodidae Family, Pteropus genus. Hendra virus can cause a range of symptoms in horses. In horses, Hendra presents as a sudden fever and either respiratory or neurologic disease and rapid death. Additional clinical signs in horses include:

  • Labored breathing;
  • Frothy and/or blood-stained nasal discharge; and
  • And coliclike discomfort.

The illness’ onset is sometimes gradual, and the reported mortality rate in infected horses is greater than 70%.

For more information on Hendra prevention or biosecurity steps in an incident, visit www.biosecurity.qld.gov.au. For information on the vaccine, visit health4horses.com.au.

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