Meeting of minds over Hendra, other rare viruses

October 20, 2009

Scientists have wrapped up a meeting in Queensland to discuss rare viruses carried by animals.

The deadly Hendra virus was high on the agenda at the Sunshine Coast conference, which ended last Friday.

Queensland Primary Industries Minister Tim Mulherin said the workshop, was the first such meeting on this scale to be held in Australia.

Biosecurity Queensland presented some of their findings on Hendra, which has killed two Australian horse veterinarians in little more than a year.

Mulherin said there was a growing awareness of the extent of viruses, such as Hendra, outbreaks of which have affected only Queensland, and the closely related Nipah virus, which has affected several Asian countries.

Biosecurity Queensland scientist Dr Hume Field, who presented information on Hendra research to date at the gathering, said there was no let-up in research efforts.

"We continue to learn more and more about Hendra virus but a number of questions remained unanswered," he said.

"We know the virus is carried by bats, and that it periodically spills over into horses, and tragically sometimes to people working with infected horses.

"We don't yet fully understand why transmission occurs in some years and not others, and at certain times of the year and not others.

"Our colleagues in Asia are struggling with similar questions in relation to the closely related Nipah virus."