Hendra Virus

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Epidemiology
Outbreaks of Hendra virus have been recorded across Queensland and New South Wales. Since its first emergence in 1994, there have been 49 recorded outbreaks of Hendra, all involving infection of horses. As a result of these events, over 80 horses have died or been euthanased (AVA, 2014). 7 human cases of infection have occurred involving individuals in close contact with infected horses, with 4 of these individuals dying, giving a fatality rate of 57% (DAFF, 2013).

Fruit bats (flying foxes) are the natural reservoir hosts of Hendra, which means they can carry the virus with little effect on them. There are four species of this bat native to Australia, all shown to carry the virus - the little red flying fox, black flying fox, grey-headed flying fox and spectacled flying fox. There are populations of flying foxes present in every state of Australia except Tasmania, with the potential for outbreak in any of these areas. The timing of incidents correlates with their breeding season, with the flying foxes giving birth between April and May. Timing of outbreaks also seems to be more likely during the cooler months, where there are favourable conditions for environmental survival of the virus (Fogarty et. al., 2008).

Research conducted on different animal species has found that cats, pigs, hamsters, ferrets, African green monkeys, guinea pigs and mice can be infected with Hendra virus and will develop clinical signs. Meanwhile rats, rabbits and dogs will not show any clinical signs when exposed to the virus, but will develop antibodies (Westbury et. al., 1995). Two cases of dogs infected with Hendra have been confirmed on separate properties, both of which had previously contained Hendra infected horses (DAFF, 2013).

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...ene & cleaning is important, making sure to wash hands thoroughly, cover any skin abrasions, and use the correct chemical agents and disinfectants. Appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) must be worn, including disposable gloves, a particular respirator, eye protection, overalls and rubber boots. Safe handling, transport, storage and disposal of clinical waste, sharps, contaminated clothing, pathology specimens and animal manure must be performed.

When a suspected or confirmed Hendra case occurs, the premises may be placed under quarantine with specific disease control programs in place. However this does not always happen, and sometimes the sick/dead animal will just be isolated from all other humans and animals, until euthanasia and carcass disposal can occur. The proper disposal methods include either deep burial or burning of the carcass (DAFF, 2013).

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