Hendra virus

Hendra virus (HeV) is a rare, emerging zoonotic virus (a virus transmitted to humans from animals). It is spread by its natural host – fruit bats, and can then be passed from sick/infected horses to humans. Horses may be infectious for 72 hours prior to symptoms and until after disposal of the carcass.

It can cause severe disease which affects the lungs and brain of horses and humans. Symptoms of HeV in humans may range from a flu-like illness to fatal respiratory and neurological disease (WHO, 2020). There is no human vaccine for the Hendra virus and without prompt treatment, the virus is often fatal.

Take care when handling all horses. Wash and dry hands thoroughly after handling horses. Avoid contact with secretions (blood, urine, faeces, saliva, nasal secretions). Cover cuts/abrasions with occlusive dressings.

Photo courtesy of Dave Hunt, ABC.

Always wear gloves, masks and protective glasses when handling sick horses Vets should take particular care during post-mortems.

Reduce the risk of transmission from bats to horses by moving feed and water troughs away from areas where fruit bats feed or roost.

Fast facts:

  • Hendra virus can be fatal
  • Hendra virus can be transmitted from horses to people
  • Hendra virus is spread by fruit bats

References used for this

More information:

Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)
Potentially deadly Hendra virus spreads further south in New South Wales

Hendra virus identification

Queensland Government
Hendra virus information for industry and horse owners

Better Health Channel
Hendra Virus

Australian Veterinary Association
Hendra Virus

Clinical care:

Queensland Health
Hendra virus infection for healthcare workers [PDF]

NSW Health Department
Hendra virus monitoring

Research & reviews:

Microbiology Australia
The dynamic landscape of bat borne zoonotic viruses in Australia (2020)

Medical Journal of Australia
Hendra virus infection in a veterinarian

Queensland Government
Hendra virus research