Hendra virus (HeV) infections in horses: Queensland, Australia
Hendra virus (formerly called equine morbillivirus) is a member of the family Paramyxoviridae. The virus was first isolated in 1994 from specimens obtained during an outbreak of respiratory and neurologic disease in horses and humans in Hendra, a suburb of Brisbane, Australia. [Nipah virus, also a member of the family Paramyxoviridae, is related but not identical to Hendra virus](CDC, 2101).
The natural reservoir for Hendra virus is thought to be flying foxes (bats of the genus Pteropus) found in Australia.
HeV has the potential for serious zoonotic outbreaks, therefore requiring strict biosecurity and safety measures are necessary. There are important public health and workplace health and safety issues that require consideration. Careful risk management of the situation, safe work practices and PPE are required to manage potential exposure (Queensland Gov, 2011). Previously, there were 14 incidents of HeV over a 17-year period from 1994 to 2010 (see Table 1). In 2011, there were 10 HeV incidents in Queensland and 8 in New South Wales.
HeV transmission from bats can be passed through contact with urine, birth fluids and aborted pups. These bats are mobile animals and HeV should be considered wherever horses and flying foxes are in close proximity to each other. The virus can persist after the bat has left the area, so consideration should be taken for areas of known ranges (Queensland Gov, 2011).
The government in Queensland, Australia has developed strict guidelines, especially for veterinarians when dealing with possible HeV infections. Here is the link to their full report. http://www.daff.qld.gov.au/documents/Biosecurity_GeneralAnimalHealthPestsAndDiseases/Hendra-GuidelinesForVets.pdf
Dr. Jonathan Epstein, Associate Vice-President of EcoHealth Alliance, gave a keynote talk on the Nepah virus in Mylasia for the Scripps Howard Institute on Environment and Science @ Florida Atlantic University. I attended that lecture and found Dr. Epstein to be a very interesting and knowledgeable resource for zoonotic disease.
Here is a link on more about Epstein and the EcoHealth Alliance.
(CDC) Center for Disease Control http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/spb/mnpages/dispages/nipah.htm
Queensland Government http://www.daff.qld.gov.au/documents/Biosecurity_GeneralAnimalHealthPestsAndDiseases/Hendra-GuidelinesForVets.pdf
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