The New South Wales (NSW), Australia, Department of Primary Industries (DPI) continues to remind horse owners to be vigilant, following another confirmed equine Hendra case on NSW’s North Coast.

The unvaccinated horse was euthanized and buried at the property near Lismore on Aug. 6. This is the third case of the deadly infection in unvaccinated horses in less than four weeks.

Christine Middlemiss, BVMS, MRCVS, the NSW Chief Veterinary Officer, said samples from the horse were sent for laboratory analysis to DPI’s Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute and testing confirmed Hendra virus infection late yesterday.

“The 12-year-old Welsh Pony mare was noticed to be unusually quiet and disorientated by its owners on Aug. 3,” Middlemiss said. “A private veterinarian took samples from the horse on Aug. 4 where it was also found to be suffering fever, increased respiration, poor circulation and grinding its teeth.

“Another horse and two dogs in contact with the infected horse are also being monitored,” she added. “The property is now under movement restrictions by north coast Local Land Services.”

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 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.

“All known Hendra virus cases have occurred in Queensland or northern NSW, but cases could occur wherever there are flying foxes or in horses that had recent contact with flying foxes prior to movement,” Middlemiss said.

As part of the new NSW Biosecurity Act all members of the community have a general biosecurity duty to consider how actions could have a negative impact on another person, business, animal, or the environment.

Middlemiss said all horse owners should discuss a Hendra virus vaccination strategy with their veterinarians.

“Vaccination remains the most effective way of reducing the risk of Hendra virus infection in horses, but good biosecurity and personal hygiene measures should always be practiced in conjunction with it,” she said.

“Horses should also be kept away from flowering and fruiting trees that are attractive to bats,” MIddlemiss added. “Do not place feed and water under trees and cover feed and water containers with a shelter so they cannot be contaminated from above.”

If your horse is unwell, keep people and other animals away from the horse and call your private veterinarian immediately.