Hendra Virus Testing Continues after Three Horse Deaths

Veterinarians with Biosecurity Queensland are taking samples from 25 horses at a Cawarral horse facility to confirm any further cases of Hendra virus.

This follows the deaths of three horses at the property since July 28. The most recent death, which occurred Aug. 8, has been confirmed as a Hendra virus case.

Queensland Primary Industries and Fisheries acting Chief Veterinary Officer Rick Symons, BVSc, MBA, PhD, said the samples would be sent to the Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong for testing.

"Initial results are expected later this week," he said.

"Biosecurity Queensland is also tracing the movements of horses that have left the Cawarral property in recent weeks," he said.

Eleven horses have gone to eight locations: seven in Queensland (Darling Downs, Sunshine Coast hinterland, Cawarral area), and one in New South Wales (near Manilla).

"There is also one additional property that has had some minor contact with the Cawarral property. The 10 horses at this location have been restricted for movement," Symons said. "We are providing the owners with information about Hendra virus. Their horses are in isolation and we are arranging for them to be tested to exclude the possibility of any further infection.

"The Cawarral property and a neighbouring property are under quarantine. Horses at these locations will remain under observation until they can be cleared of any infection, which will be in about four week's time."

The virus has only been reported in Australia. Fruit bats (known as flying foxes in Australia) indigenous to the continent appear to be its natural host. Typical equine clinical signs of Hendra include respiratory distress, frothy nasal discharge, elevated heart rate, and increased body temperature. Some horses display neurologic signs, such as head-pressing or twitching, while others might appear to be colicky.

In past cases, human infections have occurred from handling infected horses (ill horses and during autopsies), so great care should be taken in regard to personal protective measures. There is no evidence of human-to-human spread or human-to-horse spread of Hendra virus.

If anyone suspects a case of Hendra virus, please contact Biosecurity Queensland immediately at 13 25 23 or contact the Emergency Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.

For more information about Hendra virus visit dpi.qld.gov.au.

Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.