Results from a horse owner survey in Queensland and New South Wales, Australia, show that while most perceive hendra virus as a risk, many are not taking precautions to protect themselves or their horses from potentially deadly infection.

Biosecurity Queensland’s Chief Veterinary Officer Rick Symons, BVSc, MBA, PhD, said the survey, conducted in early 2012, assessed how well horse owners understood hendra virus and to what level they had put in place practices to minimize the risk of infection.

"The survey was undertaken soon after the unprecedented 18 hendra virus incidents in 2011, which occurred across Queensland and New South Wales and prior to the vaccine for horses being introduced," Symons said. "The survey is the first of its kind in terms of scope and scale and aimed to provide a unique insight into the human side of hendra virus risk management."

Symons said a total of 1,850 people participated in the survey.

"Results from the survey identified inconsistent awareness about hendra virus as well as inconsistency in the adoption of practices that can help protect owners and their horses," he said. "Disconcertingly, a relatively small number of horse owners indicated they were undertaking measures to reduce interactions between their horses and flying foxes (a type of Australian fruit bat known to transmit hendra to horses).

"This includes measures such as covering food and water containers, removing horses from areas where flying foxes feed, and where possible stabling horses at night," he continued. "These practices are important in reducing the risk of hendra virus in