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Information for the community

The AVA fully concurs with the advice to the public published in October 2014 by the Queensland Government Department of Health in the online document Hendra virus Infection Prevention Advice.

This document states:

“The vaccine is the single most effective way of reducing the risk of Hendra virus infection in horses and provides a work health and safety and public health benefit by the vaccine's ability to not only protect horses from infection but also to break the cycle of virus transmission from horses to humans. Widespread uptake of the horse vaccine has the potential to significantly reduce the number and risk of human exposures.”

Vaccination of horses is regarded as the highest order of risk management.

In addition to vaccination there are a number of strategies that can be employed by horse owners to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus.

  • Place all feed and water containers under cover.
  • Bring horses into covered enclosures or enclosed paddocks with no trees at night to reduce potential contact with foraging flying foxes.
  • Remove horses from paddocks where trees attract flying foxes or fence off trees to prevent horses grazing underneath.
  • When planting trees on your property do not plant trees that attract flying foxes in or near horse paddocks. These include trees with soft fruits for example, figs and stone fruits such as peaches, loquats, and mangos.
  • Seek veterinary advice before bringing any sick horses on to your property.
  • If you have a horse that you suspect of having Hendra, do not move any other horse off the property until given the all clear by the proper authorities.
  • Keep any sick horses isolated from people and other animals.
  • Plan a quarantine area on your property where sick horses can be isolated.
  • Remember to thoroughly wash your hands after and between handling individual horses to prevent the potential spread of Hendra virus infection.

How do I know if my horse has contracted Hendra?

Clinical signs of Hendra virus infection are varied, vague and similar to many common equine ailments that veterinarians encounter on a daily basis. The Queensland government’s Guidelines for veterinarians handling potential Hendra virus infection in horses states that Hendra virus infection should be considered if a horse may have had contact with flying foxes and any one or combination of the following signs are present:

  • Acute illness
  • Increased temperature
  • Increased heart rate
  • Discomfort or shifting weight between legs
  • Depression or rapid deterioration in health.

Horses with confirmed Hendra virus infection have also presented with respiratory, colic, or neurologic signs, weakness, inappetence or behaviour change.

Essentially this indicates that almost any unvaccinated sick horse with potential exposure to flying fox excretions, virus-contaminated objects or other horses may have a Hendra virus infection.

A horse can only be diagnosed with Hendra virus by submitting a range of samples to State Government and Australian Animal Health Laboratories (AAHL). It is not possible to diagnose Hendra purely from observation or an examination because the clinical signs of the disease may mimic other diseases.

Hendra video – a safer tomorrow

In 2013, a documentary was created to highlight the progress that had been made in relation to Hendra. The online documentary features former AVA President Dr Ben Gardiner, Dr Lin-fa Wang and Dr Deborah Middleton from AAHL, former EVA Presidents Dr Warwick Vale and Dr James Gilkerson, Professor Christopher Broder from the Uniformed Services University in the US and Dr Peter Reid.

Watch the documentary A safer tomorrow: our stand against Hendra virus below.

Videos provided by Zoetis Australia. 

Hendra Virus - A Safer Tomorrow - Chapter 1/6

A Safer Tomorrow - Join us for the first chapter of A Safer Tomorrow for an introduction to the Hendra experts and current opinions surrounding this deadly virus.

Hendra Virus - A Safer Tomorrow - Chapter 2/6

The Flying Fox Challenge - It is well known that flying foxes (fruit bats) carry Hendra virus. But even if you don't see bats in your area, it doesn't mean your horses are not at risk of infection. Watch this chapter of A Safer Tomorrow to find out more.

Hendra Virus - A Safer Tomorrow - Chapter 3/6

The Debate Around Mandatory Vaccination - Is mandatory vaccination the answer to stopping the spread of the deadly Hendra virus? This chapter of A Safer Tomorrow delves into this hot topic.

Hendra Virus - A Safer Tomorrow - Chapter 4/6

The Consequences of Hendra Virus Infection Have you ever worried about what would happen if there was an outbreak of Hendra at an event? Watch as equine experts explore the potential impact in this chapter of A Safer Tomorrow.

Hendra Virus - A Safer Tomorrow - Chapter 5/6

Living with Hendra Virus - In this emotional chapter of A Safer Tomorrow, Dr Debra Middleton of the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) meets Hendra survivor, Natalie Boehm, to discuss the real-world impact Hendra virus can have on lives, businesses and the wider horse community.

Hendra Virus - A Safer Tomorrow - Chapter 6/6

The future of Hendra Virus Research - This final chapter of A Safer Tomorrow asks "What's next for Hendra?" Experts discuss the importance of collaboration, research and vaccination in aiming for a brighter future for the horse communities living with Hendra.