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Hendra Virus Found Near Australia's Horse Capital

Written by: Clark Farm Equipment
Posted on: 24 Jun 2019
Topic: Clark Farm Equipment News

The Hendra Virus is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can transfer from animals to humans. The virus occurs naturally in flying foxes, where it causes little to no sign of illness. Horses contract the virus and become infected if they consume water or food contaminated with saliva, urine, faces or birthing fluids of infected flying foxes (fruit bats).

Although the virus is rare for humans to contract, 4 out of 7 humans have died from the illness so far, whilst 83 horses have died from the disease as of 2019. The fatality rate in humans is 60% and in horses it is 75%.

The virus can cause a broad range of symptoms in horses, therefore the virus should be considered in any sick animals where the cause of illness is unknown, particularly where there is rapid deterioration associated with respiratory or nervous signs. It is also important to be aware that horses may be infectious before they show any symptoms of the illness, therefore prevention methods are vital in stopping the spread of the disease.

Common symptoms associated with the Hendra Virus, include:

  • Rapid onset of illness
  • Rapid deterioration
  • Increased body temperature / fever
  • Increased heart rate
  • Discomfort / weight shifting between legs
  • Depression
  • Respiratory distress
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Nervous signs
  • Wobbly gait
  • Apparent loss of vision in one or both eyes
  • Aimless walking in a daze state
  • Head tilting and circling
  • Muscle twitching
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Inability to rise
  • Nasal discharge at death (it can be initially clear, progressing to stable white froth and/ or stable blood-stained froth)

A registered vaccine is available to help prevent the Hendra Virus in horses and is the most effective method to help manage the disease. A first dose is administered, followed up by an additional dose 3 weeks after. This is followed by a periodic booster at 6 months, trailed by an annual 12 month booster shot. Additional prevention methods include:

  • Do not place feed and water under trees
  • Cover feed and water containers with a shelter so they cannot be contaminated from above
  • Do not leave food that could attract flying foxes such as apples, carrots or molasses
  • Inspect paddocks regularly and identify trees that are flowering or fruiting
  • Remove horses from paddocks where fruiting or flowering trees have temporarily atttacted flying foxes
  • If the horses cannot be removed from the paddock, erect temporary or permanent fencing to keep horses from grazing under trees
  • Stabling horses or removing them from the paddock before dusk and overnight, when flying foxes are most active, cleaning up any fruit debris under trees before horses are returned to the paddock

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