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.
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.
- 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
Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)
Potentially deadly Hendra virus spreads further south in New South Wales
Hendra virus information for industry and horse owners
Better Health Channel
Australian Veterinary Association
Hendra virus infection for healthcare workers [PDF]
NSW Health Department
Hendra virus monitoring
Research & reviews:
The dynamic landscape of bat borne zoonotic viruses in Australia (2020)
Medical Journal of Australia
Hendra virus infection in a veterinarian
Hendra virus research