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Twenty-three people face Hendra wait

July 4, 2011

A total of 23 people in New South Wales and Queensland face a six-week wait to see whether they have contracted the potentially deadly Hendra virus from sick horses.

Three cases of Hendra have been confirmed in the last week, forcing several properties into quarantine.

The first case was at Kerry, near Beaudesert, in southern Queensland. The case has resulted in three properties being placed under quarantine.

It was followed by a case in New South Wales, near Wollongbar, on the state's North Coast.

The most recent case was at a Mount Alford property in the Boonah area, southwest of Brisbane. Authorities suspect that a horse that was euthanised on the property on June 20 was also a victim of Hendra.

None of the people being monitored are considered to have had high exposure to the virus.

They have undergone blood tests and will be re-tested at the three-week and six-week mark.

Horses on affected properties are also being monitored for the disease, which is carried by native fruit bats called flying foxes.

The Hendra season coincides with the bat breeding season. Scientists believe horses become infected by drinking water or eating forage contaminated with bat waste or birth cleanings.

Authorities continue to urge vigilance among horse owners, and to keep horses well away from trees in which bats are known to roost.

Once horses are infected, the virus is able to be passed on to humans. Of the four known cases of human infection since the disease was identified in 1994, four have proved fatal.

The last two victims were equine veterinarians.



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