Hendra Virus

Welcome to the first blog of our brand new website.

Lots of people have been worried and called us about the recent cases of Hendra virus in Queensland and also Northern NSW. So we thought it would be a good idea to briefly cover the main points of the disease, and discuss any potential risks that may present themselves to you as concerned pet owners.

The virus is called “Hendra” because that is the name of the Brisbane suburb where the virus was first seen in 1994. It has only been identified in Australia at this stage. The virus is carried by the flying fox (FF) and causes no apparent problem in this protected species. In fact, it is thought that up to 30% of all FF populations carry the virus. When the FF defecates or urinates over areas where horses are, especially over where they eat, they can pass the virus on when the horse eats infected food or grass.

Horses can develop a vast array of signs when infected, from neurological disease, to coughing and other respiratory signs. Over 30 horses have been infected and of those 70% have died. People become infected when they come into contact with infected fluids such as horse urine or blood, or water droplets from the horse coughing, as was the case with veterinarians infected. Seven people have been infected and four have died.

Recently, an 11 year old Kelpie called “Dusty” became the first canine to be infected with this potentially fatal virus. We don’t know what will happen with the dog, as it is currently showing no clinical signs. All animals on infected properties are routinely tested for the virus.

The good news is, even with our large FF populations, there is currently no reason to suggest that dog owners in the Canberra/Queanbeyan region are at risk from the virus.

In our next blog, we will discuss the vaccine that is being fast-tracked against this disease, and has been given a $6 million funding boost by the Queensland government. We will also cover how to best prevent the disease and other new viruses emerging around the world that are being spread by FF.

We would love to know what you think of the blog, and what other topics you would like covered in future times.

Originally written August 2011