Horse Positive for Hendra to be Euthanized

Test samples taken from a horse at a Cawarral horse nursery property have come back positive, showing the horse was exposed to Hendra virus. The virus neutralization test utilized is considered the definitive test to determine whether an animal has had the virus in its system.

Biosecurity Queensland acting Chief Veterinary Officer Rick Symons, BVSc, MBA, PhD, said national policy dictates the horse should be humanely euthanized.

"This is a national policy," Symons said. "Horses can have the virus in their system and recover, but there is an ongoing risk of the virus remaining dormant and reappearing in the future and this presents a potential threat to human and horse health."

Three horses on a Cawarral, Queensland, property died in late July and early August. Two of the dead horses were confirmed positive for Hendra, a potentially zoonotic virus that has only occurred in Australia.

A veterinarian exposed to a horse infected with Hendra virus has also tested positive for the disease and was hospitalized in an induced coma (read more).  

Hendra virus has a mortality rate of 70-80% in horses, and 50% of infected people are at a grave risk of dying.

"This horse has been in isolation on a quarantined property and this result doesn't present any new risk to human or horse health during the current Hendra response," Symons said. "The timing of the euthanasia is yet to be confirmed. The owner has granted permission for the Australian Animal Health Laboratory to conduct a post mortem on the horse for research purposes.

"The Cawarral property will remain under quarantine until Biosecurity Queensland is completely confident there is no chance of any further infection," he stated.

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

For more information about Hendra virus visit Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries Web site.

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