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Hendra virus facts and resources

Hendra virus can produce life-threatening illness in horses and humans: to date about 80% of infected horses and 60% of infected people have died.
Above: Oedematous lung from an HeV case (similar to the pathology caused by African horse sickness) (Source: CSIRO EAD Field Guide)
Above: HeV is a serious zoonotic and requires the use of rigorous biosecurity and safety measures (Image: Tweed Daily News)
There are no pathognomonic signs that define Hendra virus (HeV) infection in horses. It can cause a range of clinical signs and should be considered where illness has an acute onset and rapidly progresses to death with associated respiratory and/or neurological signs.

Flying foxes are a natural reservoir for HeV and do not show any signs of illness when infected. It is believed the virus can be transmitted from: flying fox to horse, horse to horse, horse to dog, and horse to human.

Horses can shed the virus before they show clinical signs.

Assessing whether Hendra is a differential before the visit minimises the risk of zoonosis for vets and owners. Key factors to consider when assessing the potential for a Hendra virus spill-over include: the proximity of flying fox roosts; previous incidents in the area; and Hendra vaccination status of the horses (but still use PPE to protect human health even if horses are vaccinated ).

Notify your state or territory authority or contact the Emergency Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888 if you suspect Hendra.

Source: Plowright et al Proc Royal Soc B Biological Sciences January 2015