Horse with Hendra virus euthanised in northern New South Wales

A coloured transmission electron micrograph of the Hendra, virus. Photo: The Electron Microscopy Unit of the Australian Animal Health Laboratory, part of the CSIRO science agency CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
A coloured transmission electron micrograph of the Hendra, virus. Photo: The Electron Microscopy Unit of the Australian Animal Health Laboratory, part of the CSIRO science agency CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

A horse in northern New South Wales has been euthanised after testing confirmed it had been infected by the dangerous bat-borne Hendra virus.

The state’s Department of Primary Industries said the 11-year-old gelding had not been vaccinated against the virus.

The horse lived on a property near Lismore, a city in the northeast of the state. Officials said the property had been placed under movement restrictions as inquiries continued.

The department urged horse owners to be vigilant.

The state’s chief veterinary officer, Dr Christine Middlemiss, said it was the first case of Hendra virus confirmed in New South Wales this year.

She said samples from the horse were sent by a private veterinarian for laboratory analysis at the department’s Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute and results confirmed the Hendra virus.

The horse was noticed to be lethargic on Thursday, July 6. By the following day, the horse was not eating and was wobbly on its feet.

“There has been a case of Hendra virus in the area before,” Middlemiss said.

“All known Hendra virus cases have occurred in Queensland or northern NSW, but cases could occur wherever there are flying foxes or in horses that had recent contact with flying foxes prior to movement.”

She urged horse owners to discuss vaccination with their veterinarian.

“Vaccination remains the most effective way of reducing the risk of Hendra virus infection in horses, but good biosecurity and personal hygiene measures should always be practiced in conjunction with it.”

She said horses should also be kept away from flowering and fruiting trees that were attractive to bats.

“Do not place feed and water under trees and cover feed and water containers with a shelter so they cannot be contaminated from above.”

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