Hendra Virus Update
By C.J. (Kate) Savage BVSc(Hons), MS, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, Oceanic WEVA delegate
In recent years, a deadly disease–hendra virus–has been making waves in the Australian equine industry. Hendra virus is a rare but nearly always fatal infection of horses; however, it is of grave concern because it is a lethal zoonotic agent (meaning it is transmissible from horses to humans) that can also prove deadly for people.
Hendra virus was named after the suburb in Queensland where it was first isolated in 1994. The virus was formerly known as "equine morbillivirus" and was first recognized in as the cause of an outbreak of acute respiratory disease in horses. Infected horses display clinical signs of breathing difficulties and/or neurologic signs, frequently with high fevers. The chain of transmission appears to be flying fox (a type of fruit bat of the genus Pteropus) to horse, and then horse to human.
Veterinarians have recognized hendra virus infection and disease in horses in two Australian states: Queensland and New South Wales–which are located in the warm northeastern region of the country. Since 1994 more than 60 horses have been affected, while seven people have been affected, several of whom have
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