Australia's Deadly Hendra Virus (HeV) Desperately Needs More Research
    By Helen Barratt | July 31st 2011 06:15 AM | 33 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    Right now on the east coast of Australia where I live, we have an outbreak of the deadly Hendra Virus (HeV) which kills horses and humans and even infects dogs and I have to admit that I’m scared, especially as I own 3 horses and 3 dogs. Over the last month of July 2011, 14 horses have died and have potentially infected 55 people who are being tested for HeV and remain under observation along with any horses, dogs and cats that also came into contact with the sick horses. This is required even when that contact occurred before the infected horses started to exhibit any symptoms of the virus, as they were potentially infectious for at least 2 days beforehand while they were still outwardly symptom free.

    There is no cure for the HeV virus, and it usually kills people and horses. It is hoped that an HeV vaccine currently being developed by the CSIRO will be available in 2013 because of the seven people known to have ever contracted HeV since 1994, four have died from the virus and approximately 70% of horses that contract the virus have also died and even those that survive are usually then euthanised as part of a Government health policy. 

    Men in protective gearAs a horse owner living in a district where 2 horses have died in nearby Lismore and Mullumbimby in the last 2 weeks and many more are quarantined, I decided that it was time to do some research into what we know about this deadly HeV virus, how much of a real risk it is to me and my horses and now also my dogs, how I can minimise that risk and what is the likely outcome if one or more of my horses should become infected. I was stunned to learn that not a lot is known about HeV and more scientific research is desperately needed.

    HeV History 
    The Hendra virus was discovered in September 1994 when it caused the deaths of 13 horses, and a trainer at a horse training complex in Hendra, a suburb of Brisbane in Queensland, Australia. The first case was a mare stabled with 19 other horses who died two days after falling ill, the 19 other horses then all became ill and 13 died. The remaining 6 animals were subsequently euthanised as a way of preventing relapsing infection and possible further transmission. The trainer, Victor Rail, and a stable hand who both nursed the first sick mare also became ill within one week of her death with an influenza-like illness. The stable hand recovered but Mr Rail died of respiratory and renal failure. 

    There was also a second outbreak in August 1994, which chronologically preceded the Hendra outbreak in Mackay 1,000 km north of Brisbane and which resulted in the deaths of 2 more horses and their owner. The owner, Mark Preston had assisted in the post mortem of the horses and was admitted to hospital 3 weeks later, suffering from meningitis. Mr Preston recovered, but 14 months later developed neurologic symptoms and then died. This outbreak was diagnosed retrospectively by a post mortem showing the presence of Hendra virus in his brain.

    Transmission from bats
    Hendra virus is a zoonotic disease, which means it can transfer from animals to people, the word is derived from the Greek words zoon "animal" and nosos "ailment". HeV has been found to be carried by the hundreds of thousands of Pteropid fruit bats or ‘flying foxes’ that inhabit Australia, Papua New Guinea, and surrounding islands. So far, clinical disease due to HeV infection has only been recognised in Australia. 

    Flying Foxes in treeFruit bats are a natural host and appear to be relatively unaffected by the virus though their rate of virus emission tested in their droppings fluctuates roughly between 9% and 30% seasonally and this virus emission rate appears to increase when the bats are under more stress to find food during the winter months between May and September. At this time they are also giving birth and lactating when there is often a corresponding peak of horses being infected by HeV occurring around July and August. It is thought likely that this year, record-breaking rain over summer may have also left flying foxes undernourished and stressed, with weakened immune systems and a higher amount of Hendra virus in their bodies.

    On Monday, a horse vet at Agnes Banks Equine Clinic in the Hawkesbury, Derek Major said that “Hendra virus is a death sentence for a horse...there are bats who have been exposed to this virus flying over our heads now. There is a much more widespread geographical distribution of Hendra this year than previously, there are more cases everywhere.” He believes this is due in part to the bats’ need to forage further afield because of habitat destruction and loss. According to the Wilderness Society every few minutes in New South Wales an area of bushland the size of three soccer pitches is being cleared, removing crucial trees and habitats for Australian wildlife and causing more stress for these bats or ‘flying foxes’.

    Although the hendra virus occurs naturally in flying foxes; governments and experts stress that these animals should not be targeted for culling. Flying foxes are protected species and are critical to our environment as they pollinate what is left of our native trees and spread seeds. Without flying foxes, we wouldn’t have any eucalypt forests, rainforests and melaleucas. Any unauthorised attempts to disturb flying fox colonies are not only illegal but also ineffective for a number of reasons:-

    • Flying foxes are an important part of our natural environment. 
    • Flying foxes are widespread in Australia and are highly mobile. 
    • There are more effective steps people can take to reduce the risk of Hendra virus infection in horses and people. 
    • Attempts to cull flying foxes could make the problem worse by further stressing them and causing increased excretion of Hendra virus. For more information about flying foxes, contact the Department of Environment and Resource Management on 1300 130 372 or visit 

    Flying foxes and trees
    Flying foxes are attracted to a broad range of flowering and fruiting trees and vegetation as a food source. Some examples of the trees and vegetation on properties where Hendra virus in horses has occurred include:-
    • a range of fig trees (including the Moreton Bay fig tree)
    • melaleucas (including paperbarks)
    • eucalypts
    • wattles
    • passionfruit vines. 

    Other trees that may attract flying foxes include flowering or fruiting trees with soft fruits and stone fruits (e.g. mangoes, pawpaws), palms, lilly-pillies and grevilleas. This is not a comprehensive list of trees that are attractive to flying foxes as this will vary from one geographical area to another. Many horse owners are now removing these trees from their properties for obvious reasons, which will of course further stress the bat populations.

    Transmission of HeV by other animals
    It is possible that other animals such as possums for example could also be Hendra virus hosts and this is currently being researched by scientists though initial tests have shown to be negative further research is required.The Hendra virus is one of five new zoonotic viruses discovered in Pteropid fruit bats since 1994, the others being the Australian bat lyssavirus (ABLV), the Nipah virus, the Menangle virus and the Melaka virus. Of these, ABLV which is closely related to the rabies virus is the only virus known to be transmissible to humans directly from bats without an intermediate host and so far there have only been two recorded cases both on the East coast of Australia where people were either scratched or bitten by fruit bats carrying ABLV.

    Hendra virusTesting for HeV
    Any sick animals and/or animals and people known to have come into contact with infected horses on Australia’s east coast are tested for HeV either by Biosecurity in Queensland (QLD) or by the Department of Primary Industries in New South Wales (NSW DPI). They advise that anyone who is worried that their horse could have Hendra virus should keep everyone away from the horse and call their private veterinarian immediately, who will notify the relevant authorities, as HeV is a notifiable disease. If their vet is unavailable and the illness is progressing rapidly, they should call the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888. If an animal tests positive then any animals who have come into contact with the infected animal will then be placed under observation and quarantine while the affected farms, paddocks and premises are cordoned off. 

    The most recent tests on cats and dogs on 11 affected properties currently under quarantine in Queensland have turned up only one new positive result but 2 results are still outstanding. However, for the first time a family pet Kelpie dog called Dusty has tested positive on an infected property at Mt Alford, south of Brisbane. 

    Dusty, the family kelpie diagnosed with the Hendra virus. Photo: Channel Ten

    According to Queensland chief vet Dr Rick Symons "We knew that a dog could be infected but we've never seen a natural transmission, what we are seeing here is an evolving disease and an evolving virus, and there are changes as the virus evolves and the exposure changes." The dog returned two negative results for the virus, but a different type of test conducted at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Victoria had confirmed the presence of hendra antibodies.This means that at some point the dog has been exposed to the virus but to their knowledge has shown no signs of illness. 

    Reports indicate that this Australian Kelpie, a much loved family companion, will sadly probably have to be euthanised in line with government policy to protect public health. At present he is still alive and isolated while authorities are awaiting the results of more tests before making the final decision about Dusty’s fate. Biosecurity Queensland suggest the dog most likely was exposed to HeV through one of the sick horses on the same property but this is by no means certain, like everything else about HeV.

    This case has raised many questions for biosecurity and health officials and researchers. Authorities are now recommending that people keep dogs and cats away from sick horses to reduce the risk of such an infection. The remaining horses and dogs on this property are still being monitored daily and show no signs of illness. 

    Urgent need for more scientific research
    The scientific information available on the Hendra virus is still incomplete and research urgently needs to discover much more about this disease. On July 27th July 2011 it was announced that the Queensland and NSW governments will increase Hendra virus research funding by $6 million over the next three years. In scientific experiments by the CSIRO and the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI) Biosecurity Queensland cats, guinea pigs, ferrets and pigs have been infected experimentally with Hendra virus but the virus has not been known to occur naturally in these animals. 

    HeV can cause significant morbidity and mortality in humans and domestic animals and is widely distributed in Pteropus fruit bat hosts, yet little is known about its ecology and epidemiology or how it is transmitted within Pteropus flying fox and bat populations or even from Pteropus hosts to domestic animals. The bats nomadic lifestyle and complex social structure and the sporadic nature of bat-borne disease outbreaks, has limited large-scale study on these pathogens and limited progress in understanding their dynamics within bats. 

    Flying fox - photo Jonathon Carroll

    Recent studies earlier this year have shown that almost one third of Queensland's bats are now infected with the Hendra virus, more than four times the normal rate, new tests reveal based on research on infected bat populations.

    How HeV is transmitted
    It is thought that the Hendra virus can be transmitted from flying fox to horse, horse to horse, horse to human and now for the first time this week either from horse to dog or flying fox to dog but probably not the latter. There is no evidence yet of Hendra virus spreading from person to person, from flying fox to human or from dog to human. The exact way that it is transmitted is not yet fully understood but it is thought that horses are infected by somehow ingesting flying fox body fluids and excretions such as their saliva either in water or on half-eaten fruits and flowers, or from their urine, faeces and afterbirth, which drop from bats that are either flying overhead, roosting and/or feeding in trees above horse paddocks and potentially contaminating the horses’ grazing grass, water holes and any feed and water in containers below. 

    There have been 7 known cases of Hendra virus infection in humans since 1994 and all of these have resulted from close contact with respiratory secretions such as mucus and/or blood from an infected horse. Other people have reported having some contact with infected horses but have remained well, and their blood tests have shown no evidence of Hendra virus infection. 
    Geographical distribution of outbreaks
    As of 24 July 2011, a total of twenty-six events of Hendra virus have occurred, all involving infection of horses. Four of these outbreaks have spread to humans as a result of direct contact with infected horses. On 26 July 2011 a dog living on the Mt Alford property was found to have HeV antibodies, the first time an animal other than a flying fox, horse, or human has tested positive outside an experimental situation.

    These HeV events have all been on the east coast of Australia, with the most northern case at Cairns, Queensland and the event furthest south at Macksville, NSW. Until the outbreak at Chinchilla, Queensland in July 2011, all outbreak sites had been within the distribution of at least two of the four mainland flying-foxes (fruit bats); Little red flying-fox, (Pteropus scapulatus), black flying-fox, (Pteropus alecto),grey-headed flying-fox,(Pteropus poliocephalus) and spectacled flying-fox, (Pteropus conspicillatus). Chinchilla is within the range of Little red flying-fox and it is west of the Great Dividing Range. This is the furthest west that the infection has ever been known to occur in horses. The timing of incidents indicates a seasonal pattern of outbreaks, possibly related to the seasonal habits of the grey-headed flying-fox, and the black flying-fox and the spectacled flying-fox birthing. 
    Chronological history of HeV Infections (see

    August 1994, Mackay, Queensland: Death of two horses and one person, Mark Preston.
    September 1994, Hendra, Queensland: 20 horses died or were euthanised. Two people infected, with one death, Victor Rail.
    January 1999, Trinity Beach, Cairns, Queensland: Death of one horse.
    October 2004, Gordonvale, Cairns, Queensland: Death of one horse. A veterinarian involved in autopsy of the horse was infected with Hendra virus, and suffered a mild illness.
    December 2004,Townsville, Queensland: Death of one horse.
    June 2006, Peachester, Sunshine Coast, Queensland: Death of one horse.
    October 2006, Murwillumbah, New South Wales: Death of one horse.
    July 2007, Clifton Beach, Queensland: Infection of one horse (euthanized).
    July 2008, Redlands, Brisbane, Queensland: Death of five horses; four died from the Henda virus, the remaining animal recovered but was euthanized because of the threat to health. Two veterinary workers from the affected property were infected leading to the death of one, veterinary surgeon Ben Cuneen, on the 20th of August, 2008. The second veterinarian was hospitalized after pricking herself with a needle she had used to euthanize the horse that had recovered. A nurse exposed to the disease while assisting Cuneen in caring for the infected horses was also hospitalized.
    July 2008, Cannonvale, Queensland: Death of two horses.
    July 2008, Proserpine, Queensland; Death of four horses.
    July 2009, Cawarral, Queensland: Death of four horses.Queensland veterinary surgeon Alister Rodgers tested positive after treating the horses.
    September 1, 2009 after two weeks in a coma, he became the fourth person to die from exposure to the virus.
    September, 2009,Bowen, Queensland. Death of two horses.
    May 2010, Tewantin, Queensland: Death of one horse.
    June 26, 2011, Kerry (the horse was moved after it became sick to another property at Beaudesert), Queensland: Death of one horse. Eight people tested for infection.
    June 30, 2011 Wollongbar, New South Wales: Death of one horse, nine people being monitored for potential exposure. The second horse on the property tested positive to Hendra and was euthanised on 12 July 2011.
    June - July 2011 Mt Alford, (near Boonah) Queensland: Death of three horses (all confirmed to have died of Hendra). Six people and eight other horses exposed. The first horse death on this property occurred on 20 June 2011, although it was not until after the second death on 1 July 2011 that samples taken from the first animal were tested. The third horse was euthanised on 4 July 2011. On 26 July 2011 a dog from this property was reported to have tested positive for HeV antibodies. Reports indicate that this Australian Kelpie, a family companion, will be euthanised in line with government policy. Biosecurity Queensland suggest the dog most likely was exposed to HeV though one of the sick horses.
    July 3, 2011 Macksville, New South Wales: Death of one horse, 6 people potentially exposed.
    July 4, 2011 Park Ridge, Logan City, Queensland: Death of one horse, 2 people potentially exposed.
    July 11, 2011 Kuranda, west of Cairns, Queensland: Death of one horse, 4 people potentially exposed, 37 horses potentially exposed.
    July 13, 2011 Hervey Bay, Queensland: Death of one horse, one horse being monitored. There is no information about any people who may be monitored for potential exposure.
    July 14, 2011 Lismore, NSW: Death of one horse, 1 other horse being monitored.
    July 15, 2011 Boondall, Queensland: Death of one horse, 6 other horses being monitored. There is no information about any people who may be monitored for potential exposure.
    22 July 2011 Biosecurity Queensland announced that a horse that died in Loganlea, Logan City on 28 June 2011 had tested positive for Hendra antibodies and "extremely low levels of Hendra virus in its blood at the time it was sampled. This, together with the level of antibodies, suggests that the horse may have had a previous Hendra virus infection and had developed some antibodies". The implications of this death have yet to be publicly discussed.
    July 22, 2011 Chinchilla, Queensland. One horse has died and four horses being monitored.
    July 24, 2011 Mullumbimby, NSW. One horse died and four horses, three cats and two dogs are being monitored. One of the horses is reported to be ill.

    Symptoms in horses 
    Hendra virus can cause a range of symptoms in horses. Usually, there is an acute onset of fever with rapid progression to death associated with either respiratory or neurological signs. Hendra virus should be suspected whenever a horse’s health deteriorates rapidly. However, in some cases the onset of signs is more gradual. One of the two known NSW cases survived four days before being euthanised. 

    Hendra virus infection should be considered in any sick horse where the cause of illness is unknown and particularly where there is rapid onset of illness, fever, increased heart rate and rapid deterioration associated with either respiratory or nervous signs. 

    The following signs have all been associated with Hendra virus cases, but not all of these signs will be found in any one infected horse:-
    • rapid onset of illness
    • increased body temperature/fever
    • increased heart rate
    • discomfort/weight shifting between legs
    • depression
    • rapid deterioration with either respiratory and/or nervous signs.

    Respiratory signs include:-
    • respiratory distress
    • increased respiratory rate
    • nasal discharge at death—can be initially clear, progressing to stable white froth and/or stable blood-stained froth.

    Nervous signs include:-
    • wobbly gait
    • apparent loss of vision in one or both eyes
    • aimless walking in a dazed state
    • head tilting and circling
    • muscle twitching
    • urinary incontinence
    • inability to rise. 

    Symptoms in humans
    The few known cases of human Hendra virus infection have shown the following signs:-
    • an influenza-like illness (which led to pneumonia in one case) with symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, headache and tiredness and/or 
    • encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) with symptoms such as headache, high fever and drowsiness, which progressed to convulsions and/or coma and death. 

    Incubation Period
    The time from a person’s exposure to a sick horse to the start of illness has been between five and 21 days. 

    Who to contact about human health concerns 
    Anyone with human health concerns at any time, should seek medical advice. Contact your general practitioner, local hospital emergency department or local public health unit if you have concerns about possible exposure of people to a horse infected with Hendra virus. For general enquiries about Hendra virus infection in humans, call the Queensland Health Hotline on 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84). For more information about managing the risk of Hendra virus in the workplace, contact Workplace Health and Safety Queensland on 1300 369 915 or visit 

    The Australian Veterinary Association advises the following :-

    1. WEAR DISPOSABLE GLOVES. Always have a box of disposable gloves on hand. Wear them if doing anything with a horse that involves contact with horse body fluids. THIS IS IMPORTANT. 
    2. WEAR Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) IF IN ANY DOUBT. Do not, in any circumstances, approach or attempt to do anything potentially invasive with any suspect horse without adequate PPE. Leave it to the Experts
    3. WASH YOUR HANDS AND EQUIPMENT. A most important factor. Strict personal hygiene is the key component in avoiding infection. Wash hands and equipment and use disinfectant. 
    4. TPR YOUR HORSE DAILY. Any deviation in the horse’s temperature, heart rate, or respiration is something all owners’ should know and is a primary indicator of the horse’s health. 5. CLINICALLY ASSESS YOUR HORSE. Owners know their horse and intuitively will pick when the horse is not himself. Investigate thoroughly any changes in signs, symptoms or behaviour. 
     6. RISK ANALYSIS. Always assess the situation and circumstances surrounding yourself and your horse and make a judgement as to the possible risk of a problem. 
    7. MAINTAIN A “PERIMETER” AROUND YOUR PROPERTY. Maintain a perimeter so that horses across the fence cannot contact each other. 
    8. “QUARANTINE” ANY NEW HORSES. A critical issue. Remember the incubation period (5-16 days) where an infected horse can appear normal. Isolate any new horses that arrive at your property.
    9. STABLE HORSES or HOLD in “SAFE” YARDS at NIGHT if possible when flying foxes are most active. 
    10. IDENTIFY ALL PLANTS AND TREES. Know whether the trees on your property are food sources for flying foxes. 
    11. ELIMINATE FLYING FOX FOOD SOURCES. If you cannot remove dangerous plants or trees, at least fence them off or prevent your horse having any access. Make sure that food sources attractive to flying foxes such as fruit and vegetables are not left around horses. 

    While waiting for test results:-
    • Avoid close contact with the horse under investigation and other horses that have been in contact with it. Wait until your veterinarian has advised you of the test results.
    • Isolate the horse that is under investigation from other animals if it is safe to do so. Ideally, leave the sick horse where it is and move other animals to a different area of the property.
    • If you need to provide feed and water for any horses on the property, do this from a distance.
    • Observe horses from a distance and notify your veterinarian immediately of any change in the health status of any horses on the property.

    If the test result is negative, your veterinarian may wish to take further samples to investigate your horse’s illness. You should continue to monitor your horse and notify your veterinarian immediately of any change in the health status of any horses. 

    Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said the recent spike of cases in both states, as well as confirmation the potentially deadly disease had been found in a dog, meant research efforts needed accelerating. "Beating Hendra is going to take the combined effort of science around Australia, the community and the governments that are effected," 

    In the meantime we horse and dog owners in Australia are living in fear every day that the horses we are riding or handling might be incubating deadly HeV and may also be giving this HeV death sentence to us and our dogs.

    Biosecurity, Queensland Government at
    The Australian Broadcasting Corporation at
    The Australian Broadcasting Corporation at dog/2811204/?site=brisbane§ion=news
    The Brisbane Times at
    The Brisbane Times link to Research paper
    The Department of Environment and resource Management at
    Workplace health and safety, Queensland


    Fabulous blog on Hendra. Thanks for putting the effort into getting the facts and getting them out there!

    Gerhard Adam
    Nicely done.

    Here's a few more links you might be interested in.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Thanks Gerhard for the positive feedback and also to these hendra virus links. The complexities and safety issues involved in testing and isolating the HeV antibodies are pretty mind blowing aren't they? 
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at
    Gerhard Adam
    I suppose I'm more fatalistic about it.  I think we're chasing our tails if we think we're ever going to gain the upper hand on the virus/bacterial world.  In my view, this is a natural consequence of reducing the buffer zone between animal species and ourselves, so that we increase our exposure to pathogens that have gone unnoticed for thousands of years.

    Basically I'm of the mind that the more our population increases, the more events of this sort we can expect to see.  After all, we have very little understanding of all the species present on this planet, so to presume that we're in any position to assess our future exposures is just shy of fantasy.
    Metagenomic analysis of microbial biodiversity in soil samples suggest that non-bacterial species greatly outnumber bacterial species. This means the majority of microorganisms on the Earth remain undiscovered, according to researchers from the University of Colorado, University of South Florida, San Diego State University and Duke University.

    Mundus vult decipi
    A very good article and well researched. My concern is , why did they put the dog down? it would have been better if the animal was allowed to live as it may help further investigations into the virus.
    The dog was kept on the property away from town and it would have been ideal to trial a vaccination on the dog as we now know it crosses species.
    I wonder how the flying-foxes got the virus in the first place and how come they never had it before ? Why is there such a large gap between areas of infection?
    So many questions ...
    Working together is the way to go.

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Thankyou. Yes, unfortunately Dusty the kelpie dog does appear to have now been put down at the family's request. Although he had no symptoms according to this article recent blood tests confirmed that he carried Hendra virus antibodies, which meant he was able to shed the virus to other animals. Very sad for the family.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at
    Reasonable review and definitely agree that more funding is needed for research & QLD Biosecurity updates are a good ongoing log.
    Also just thought I'd point out that Dr Derek Major listed in this list is a horse veterinarian but not a specialist. To be classified as a specialist in Australia requires passing fellowship exams through the Australian College of Veterinary Scientists.

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Thanks for the feedback Anonymous. Dr Derek Major lists his qualifications at as BVSc MACVSc and several newspaper articles reference him as a specialist vet. I will try to find out one way or another before making any changes, as I don't want to demote him unfairly :~)
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Here is a YouTube showing one Hendra virus (HeV) infected horse and its symptoms in Koah Australia in July 2011 at

    According to this website the symptoms vary a lot from case to case. The website is called and it says :-
    For a complete list (range) of clinical symptoms please visit the DPI Website and view the current version of the Veterinary Guidelines. The 'recorded' cases to date involve 62 horses. [See also Epidemiology Slides of these cases] Many horses have presented with very different symptoms, from very mild/vague to severe. Vets requested (in 2008) the DPI provide the case presentation of the Redlands cases because of the 'mutated' spin rampant in the media, as well as all the cases to date. Biosecurity Qld refused to provide this information, claiming it would breach confidentiality!! 
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    The bad news is that one of my horses sneezed on me yesterday (though some might not agree) which is never a very pleasant experience at the best of times! The good news however, is that according to the NSW Department of Primary Industries website there have been no new cases of the Hendra Virus (HeV) in NSW since 24 July 2011 (18 days). 

    It also appears that most of these recent cases of infected horses have occurred in paddocks which contain fig trees, which is really bad news for the beautiful, often massive fig trees, some of which are over a hundred years old and which are often growing in many Australian farms and paddocks.

     Current Situation in NSW on 11 Aug 2011: 
    Hendra virus has been confirmed as the cause of death of horses on the NSW North Coast:
    June 30 - A horse on a property near WollongbarJuly 6 - A horse near Macksville
    July 14 - A horse, on the same property at Wollongbar as the first horse, was euthanased.
    July 14 - A horse on a property near Lismore
    July 24 - A horse on a property near MullumbimbyAll properties have been placed in quarantine and the dead horses have been buried. Horse and companion animal movements on and off quarantined properties are not permitted.
    Here is a photo of a beautiful fig tree. Also a link to just some of the many other flowering and fruiting trees that fruit bats and flying foxes frequent and fertilise, which is most rainforest trees. 

    It would be terrible to chop down all of these trees in horse paddocks as it seems that this would further stress the bats and increase the liklihood of them shedding even more hendra virus. 

    The sensible approach I would have thought would be to try to cordon the big trees off with fencing around them and to definitely never put horse feeding bowls or water troughs beneath these often massive fruiting and flowering fig trees.

    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Oh dear, another horse dies with the Hendra virus on Monday, in nearby Ballina where my dad lives, see this Australian ABC News article  Sick on Sunday, euthanased on Monday, positive test back late Tuesday, news article Wednesday, I suppose that is fair enough. We could have been told that a horse had been euthanased with suspected hendra virus on Monday though.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Three more horses have died from Hendra virus on two properties near south Ballina and Mullumbimby taking the recent NSW total to 9, see and

    Dr Roth said seven properties in NSW had now been affected by Hendra virus.

    "It's critical horse owners maintain vigilance against this virus," he said in a statement.
    The most recent deaths bring to 19 the number of horses infected with Hendra that have died or been put down since June 20 this year - 10 in Queensland and nine in NSW.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    WITH two more horse deaths from hendra bringing the toll to three horses in two days, the community is calling for clearer information as to where these deaths were, see this article. The two horses were in the South Ballina and Mullumbimby areas but people want to know how close they are to these properties by knowing where exactly they are.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    This ABC news article also confirms that more hendra research is urgently needed, especially as some of the recently infected horses located pretty nearby to my own horses, were in paddocks that didn't contain any large fruit trees that attract bats. According to Ian Roth the senior vet with the Department of Primary Industries, on some of these properties :-
    "..there doesn't appear to be large fruit trees in the immediate paddock and so we need to assess what's in the other paddocks and as I say, this is where the bat ecologists are invaluable. There's a lot of work being done at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong and also there's the Hendra Taskforce, and that will help with research. So it will help with identifying projects that need to be done, accelerating projects and new areas of work."

    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    ABC news reports that another horse has died of the hendra virus in Currumbin last night. The Currumbin Creek Road property has been placed into quarantine and two people and 22 other horses are being tested for exposure to the virus.
    The hendra virus taskforce is meeting in Sydney today as authorities in Queensland deal with the latest outbreak.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Late yesterday, residents of SE Queensland town Gayndah have been given permission to eventually move on up to 300,000 flying foxes that have plagued the town for 10 months, according to this article. Researchers are also attaching 10 GPS trackers to flying foxes in south-east Queensland to learn more about hendra virus and to monitor the movements of bats to see if any link can be found between the animals' locations and hendra-affected areas. Biosecurity Queensland spokesman Dr Hume Fields says the new technology could make it a lot easier to understand the way the virus spreads.
    "The units are so small, they're about half the size of a matchbox," he said. "We can simply just glue them onto the back of the animals and just log every five or 10 minutes as they fly around what their locations are." Dr Field says researchers hope to understand which trees attract the bats and whether there is any connection between their movements and hendra virus-affected areas."The main thing we're going to learn is just how the bats move across the landscape," he said.
    North Burnett Council CEO Mark Pitt says he hopes Gayndah is first in line to get the technology.
    "The current colonies of bats that we have in Gayndah at the moment are acting in quite peculiar ways and even just being here at this time of year and where they're roosting," he said."They're roosting low to the ground, they're doing things that the bats don't commonly do apparently, so again anything that helps us with understanding why they're doing it will be a good thing."A hendra virus information session will be held at the Gayndah Memorial Hall tonight at 6:30pm (AEST).
    The Department of Environment and Resource Management granted the approval to have the Little Red flying foxes relocated but it came with special conditions that would not be made available entirely until BioSecurity Queensland and DERM meet with the council in Gayndah later today. According to North Burnett Mayor Joy Jensen :-
    “We will not be able to move the bats until the babies are mature enough to fly, which is about four weeks,” she said.“We are very cautious of the devil being in the detail.”Cr Jensen, who joked that residents had been waiting with “bat-bated breath” on the decision, said the council was concerned it would be left to relocate the bats. “To get 300,000 bats airborne and confused would cause a horrible situation for the town of Gayndah,” she said.
    DERM conservation, strategy and planning general manager Clive Cook said the damage mitigation permit would allow the council to remove the branches where the flying foxes roosted. “Removal of the branches will take place while the flying foxes are absent from the roost to discourage them from resettling at that location,”.

    Independent Member for Burnett, Rob Messenger is continuing his crusade against bats carrying the deadly hendra virus and other fatal diseases, by calling on the government to test the colony in Bargara and demanding that "Any bat colony that tests positive for deadly diseases must be destroyed,”. However, DERM has announced that a $40,000 research project will be carried out to monitor and investigate the impacts of dispersal of flying fox colonies on their ecology, stress and risk of the virus.

    As mentioned in this blog, unfortunately there is evidence from research that the more stressed the bat and flying fox populations become, the higher the risk of them shedding more virus and infecting more horses.

    Cullling and destroying bat populations which often number in many thousands, see this video of the 'bat plague' in Gayndah 150,000 to 300,000 bat population, would also have a devastating effect upon what is left of Australia's rainforests which rely heavily upon bats to fertilise and distribute their seeds. Unfortunately no bats and flying foxes would ultimately mean no rainforests. Its a difficult problem that is relying heavily upon future scientific research to provide the scientific data and information required to find an urgent solution. The latest hendra infection and horse death has occurred in the Currumbin Valley which has a dense population of horses, if it were to suddenly start spreading between these horses as it did in the first recorded hendra outbreak in Hendra, the problem could very seriously escalate.
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    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Here is Biosecurity QLD's Facebook video footage of Dr Hume Field fitting the first flying fox in Australia with a GPS data logger. In it he says they are only fitting (by shaving and gluing) the GPS devices on to adult males so as not to interfere with mother and baby interactions. The limited research so far implies that lactating and pregnant females are probably the highest risk shedders of the Hendra virus, so I would imagine this GPS data will probably be a lot less useful because of this skew.
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    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    In an emailed Hendra Update that I have just received, Biosecurity QLD lists that the 'current Hendra Virus research includes' :-
    • three year study into the frequency of Hendra virus infection and excretion in flying foxes in northern Australia
    • three year study begun earlier this year is looking at Hendra virus strain diversity in Queensland and northern Australia
    • identifying the risk factors for Hendra virus incidents in horses (including risk mapping)
    • modeling the infection in flying foxes
    • examining interactions between horses and nocturnal wildlife
    • modeling flying fox - horse - human interactions.
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    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    I was amazed to read that cattle on the affected property in Currumbin are being checked for symptoms of the hendra virus in this news article which also says that initial tests on 2 people exposed to the hendra virus by infected horses in Currumbin have come back negative. In the article property owner Colette Greer says that :- 
    Biosecurity Queensland staff have been checking cattle and the family's pet dog every day for any symptoms.
    How do they even know what the symptoms of hendra virus in cattle are? They never mentioned managing to infect cattle in laboratory tests, they did say that they managed to infect pigs, guinea pigs and dogs though. How many other animals have they managed to infect and do the symptoms vary much from species to species I wonder?
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    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Another horse died of hendra virus 2 days ago, North of Ballina, whatever that means? I am north of Ballina in Byron Bay, so is Lennox Heads and Suffolk Park, so we want to know where? We horse owners would prefer more specific hendra location information but instead with each incident the location becomes more vague. Hopefully people with horses on adjacent properties are being notified in case their horses have been interacting with the infected horses over the fences for example, and there are many horse trail rides that may run adjacent to an infected property. Why can't the authorities provide more specific location information I wonder?

    Apparently the horse that died became ill on Saturday showing neurological changes including weakness and loss of balance and was dead the following day. To me the virus seems more fast acting than in previous years. Yesterday I was pulling blood sucking ticks off my horses and squashing them between my fingers (as most horse owners do on a daily basis) and it occurred to me that maybe this was not such a good idea, as they are full of blood and probably a high risk method of infection. It then occurred to me that maybe this is yet another way that the virus is being transmitted between species, a tick might fall from a bat onto a horse for example, hopefully the authorities are researching this possibility. 

    Blood sucking parasitic and toxic ticks are prevalent in Australia and the tick season is rapidly coming upon us. I had 2 tick bites on my leg this week which I reacted very badly to, I am now on antibiotics and have a splitting headache. Oh the joys of living in Australia, such a stunningly beautiful country which unfortunately we also share with locusts, ticks, deadly snakes, infected bats, dingoes and the hendra virus, what next I wonder?
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    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    'Almost 50 people from New South Wales and Queensland face an anxious wait until they are cleared of the potentially fatal Hendra virus, which has now claimed the lives of 21 horses' see Sky News.
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    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Fears about the hendra virus are fuelling escalating cruelty towards bats and flying foxes and some people have started shooting and/or bludgeoning them to death. This article describes how a dog apparently attacked and critically injured a bat which was left to die by the dog owner who then called the bat rescue service to check whether his dog would now get the hendra virus. Not likely, but still a good question which is very relevant to this ongoing incidental public research.
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    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat

    You’re invited to ask your question and watch a panel of experts address the myths and clarify the facts around flying foxes and Hendra virus. 

    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    A hendra virus online information session's expert panel came together on Friday 23 September to address the myths and clarify the facts around flying foxes and Hendra virus. 
    During a 90 minute live-streamed webcast, the panel answered questions submitted by the public in the lead-up to the session. An independent moderator, journalist Sharyn Ghidella, selected all questions for the panel and facilitated the discussion. The video and text transcript will be available online in the coming weeks. You can subscribe to their mailing list here for an email notification once the files are online and to receive other related news. 
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at
    Forgot to tell you. Use BCTP to treat infected horses only. Not cleared for human use. mix at 65 degrees for two hours slow chill to room temp. Apply to any lesions also.

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    The National Hendra Virus Research Program is seeking preliminary research proposals from within Australia and overseas. For more information about the priority outcomes for the Open Funding Program, visit Proposals are to be submitted to by 3 November 2011. Biosecurity Queensland coordinates the government's efforts to prevent, respond to, and recover from pests and diseases that threaten the economy and environment.
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    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    This article describes how a 3 year old horse near Townsville QLD has died suddenly this week from the Hendra virus. Most horse deaths from Hendra usually occur between June and November so a January death is unusual but has happened once before in this area 13 years ago. According to the article :-
    Scientists are hopeful of releasing a vaccine for Hendra by the end of next year."As far as I'm aware the vaccine is looking to be available in 2013," Dr Symons said."It needs to go through processes, in terms of effectiveness and safety."Those trials are being undertaken now."Australian Veterinary Association president Barry Smyth said vets around the country needed to be vigilant to the disease, despite cases never being recorded outside of Queensland and NSW."We tell people to be on the lookout all the time, because every flying fox population in Australia that's been tested has come up positive for Hendra," Dr Smyth said."You never know when you're going to get a spillover event, so certainly we need to keep a close watch for the symptoms, particularly for vets in Queensland and NSW."But there's no reason it couldn't show up in other parts of the country."
    The article also describes how some politicians are asking for a bat culling strategy saying that 'the Government is putting bats lives ahead of human lives'. They are obviously unaware of the fact that the more you stress a bat population by culling them, the more hendra virus the surviving bats appear to shed, making them even more infectious to horses. Also, without the bats we would have no rainforests and more soil erosion and endangered species, as many rainforest tree seeds can only be activated by passing through these bats' digestive tracts. 
    Meanwhile federal independent MP Bob Katter's party says the latest Hendra outbreak proves a bat-culling strategy is needed.Katter's Australian Party MP Shane Knuth said the government is putting bats' lives ahead of human lives."The reality is that a culling strategy is desperately needed," he said in a statement.Mr Knuth accused both Labor and the Liberal National Party of inaction on the matter, and called for bat control to he handed to local councils.He said his home town of Charters Towers was a "ticking time bomb", with a population 15,000 bats."All previous methods have failed and unfortunately, culling is the only option to get results," he said.
    Not sure what he means by all previous methods have failed? Maybe they have been trying to move on the bats by cutting down the trees where they roost or firing guns to try to move them on? If so this will have also stressed the bats and increased the liklihood of them infecting horses with the virus. I wouldn't be at all surprised to discover that there has even been some recent bat culling in this area just prior to this horse becoming infected. More research is definitely needed.
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    Gerhard Adam
    While it's not specifically related, this is precisely what leads to the "science as religion" agenda, especially when it becomes obvious that political power is being used to placate individuals and their respective beliefs.  It's little wonder that we seem to be on an ever accelerating process of taking these most knee-jerk reactions and converting them to public policy.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Just read this interesting article at Science Codex which claims that a new study on African bats provides a vital clue for unravelling the mysteries in Australia's battle with the deadly Hendra virus :-
    The study focused on an isolated colony of straw-coloured fruit bats on islands off the west coast of central Africa. By capturing the bats and collecting blood samples, scientists discovered these animals have antibodies that can neutralise deadly viruses known in Australia and Asia.The paper is published today, 12 January, in the journal PLoS ONE, and is a collaboration of the Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Cambridge, the Zoological Society of London and the CSIRO Australian Animal Health Laboratory.
    Hendra virus in Australia and Nipah virus in Asia are carried by fruit bats and sporadically "spill over" into people with tragic consequences. The findings of the new study are significant as they yield valuable insights for our understanding of how these viruses persist in bat populations.
    Cambridge PhD student Alison Peel explains, "Hendra and Nipah viruses cause fatal infections in humans, but we currently understand very little about how the viruses are transmitted from bats to other animals or people. To understand what the risk factors for these 'spill-overs' are, it is crucial to understand how viruses are maintained in bat populations. The ability to study these viruses within an isolated bat colony has given us new insight into these processes."It was previously believed that these viruses were maintained in large interconnected populations of bats, so that if the virus dies out in one colony, it would be reintroduced when bats from different colonies interact. The new study indicates that a closely related virus is able to persist in a very small and isolated population of bats. 
    This is the first time this has been documented in a natural wild population, casting doubt on current theories. Peel added, "Although Hendra and Nipah viruses are relatively new to science, it appears that bats have lived and evolved with them over a very long time. We hope that by gaining a better understanding of this relationship, we may then be able to understand why it is only within the last 20 years that spill-over to humans has occurred." Source: University of Cambridge 
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    That is scary, one sneeze and you will get the virus? I should take some vaccine or flu shot for that. Thanks for sharing.

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Yes, the Hendra virus is very scary, one sneeze from my horses if they were infectious even before showing symptoms and there is a possibility that I could catch the deadly virus, as could any vet attending to any sick and as yet undiagnosed horses, which is why some vets on the eastern Coast of Australia are understandably, no longer treating horses, ponies, donkeys, asses and mules. There still needs to be much more research to establish how the Hendra virus is passed to humans, dogs and other species. I have nothing but admiration and respect for those vets who are continuing to treat our sick horses, at significant personal risk to themselves and their families. Thank you.

    Last week 2 horses died of Hendra virus, in 2 new simultaneous outbreaks of Hendra in 2 different locations, marking the start of the now dreaded 'Hendra season', which usually lasts from between May and October, though a few cases have been recorded outside of this period. 
    • 28 May 2012, InghamQueensland: one horse died. Other horses on the property are being quarantined.[57]
    Yesterday it was revealed that two horses and a dog were being re-tested, after returning positive results for Hendra virus. In rare cases the virus can be passed on to humans through animals, yet there are currently no vaccines for humans though a horse vaccine will hopefully be available in 2013. 

    One scientist on the Gold Coast, Associate Professor Nigel McMillan from Griffith Universities School of Medical Science, is hoping to change that. He's working on a treatment that could not only be used on human Hendra cases, but apply to other infections as well. Associate Professor Nigel McMillan from Griffith Universities School of Medical Science joined this ABC program to explain the treatment he has in development. Wikipedia claims that :-
    As of 30 May 2012, a total of thirty-five outbreaks of Hendra virus have occurred, all involving infection of horses. As a result of these events, seventy-one horses have died or been euthanised, with a further four having died or been euthanised as a result of possibly hendra infection. Case fatality rate in humans is 60% and in horses 75% .
    Four of these outbreaks have spread to humans as a result of direct contact with infected horses. On 26 July 2011 a dog living on the Mt Alford property was reported to have HeV antibodies, the first time an animal other than a flying fox, horse, or human has tested positive outside an experimental situation.[14] These events have all been on the east coast of Australia, with the most northern event at Cairns, Queensland and the event furthest south at Macksville, NSW.
    I have just received the following information in a newsletter from the Queensland Government :- 
    Two horses on the Rockhampton property where a horse died of Hendra virus last week have returned positive test results. The two horses would be re-tested to confirm the results before a decision was made about future action. There are eight horses in total on the property. 
    Biosecurity Queensland officers will be re-testing a dog on the Ingham property after it returned a weak positive test result. Further testing on the dog is needed as three out of the four samples taken from the animal were negative for Hendra virus.Five horses and a number of other animals remain on the Ingham property - all other animals have returned negative results in the first round of sampling. 
    Both properties are still under quarantine and testing and monitoring of all animals at these properties will continue over the next month. Hendra virus is not highly infectious and, consequently, the horse industry is not subject to movement restrictions for Hendra virus - except for a property that is under quarantine for Hendra virus.For more information about the current situation, visit the website.
    Reducing the risk of Hendra virus - There are a number of measures horse owners can take to reduce the risk of you and your horses from becoming infected with Hendra virus. Seek veterinary advice before bringing any sick horse onto your property.Isolate sick horses from other horses, people and animals until you obtain a veterinarian’s opinion. Remove horse feed and water containers from under trees. If possible, place feed and water containers under a shelter.Inspect and identify flowering/fruiting trees on your property. Remove horses from paddocks where flowering/fruiting trees are attracting flying foxes. Practise good biosecurity and do not travel with, work on or take sick horses to other properties or equestrian events.
    Do not allow visiting horse practitioners (e.g. farriers) to work on sick horses. View the Hendra Virus Information For Horse Owners pack for information and precautions on reducing the risk of Hendra virus to you and your animals. Notify suspected Hendra virus cases by contacting Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23 (during business hours) or the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888 (24-hour hotline). More information is available at
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    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Today I received a Hendra virus update from the Department of Agricultur​e, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) about the 15 horses currently under quarantine saying :-  
    One property and 15 horses are under quarantine as tracing continues to be conducted by Biosecurity Queensland officers following the latest Hendra virus case in Mackay.
    All susceptible animals go through a risk assessment process to determine what contact the infected horse may have had with other animals on the affected and any adjoining properties. Depending on the level of contact, the animals may be tested. 
    Properties with animals requiring monitoring or testing will be quarantined for at least 32 days. Restrictions apply to moving horses and horse materials on and off quarantined properties.
    Throughout the quarantine and testing period, Biosecurity Queensland does not disclose test results unless there is a new positive case or significant findings.
    When a case of Hendra virus infection is confirmed, Biosecurity Queensland contacts residents in the immediate area of the property to provide information. This includes the need to observe the quarantine and avoid any contact with animals currently being tested. 
    However, anyone with concerns about Hendra virus, can access information at or by calling 13 25 23. 
    I have a sick horse at the moment but only because he has knocked a big chunk out of his foreleg which requires regular checking, cleaning and rebandaging. He usually licks me and sneezes or snorts all over us while I'm playing nurse Florence Nightingale alongside my wonderful friend Yani, who I call Dr Kildare, because like my childhood hero he is a great doctor and also very good looking! 

    Now I vaguely understand how those people must feel playing Russian roulette, except there's no betting money in the kitty for us to to win, just hopefully a healthy horse at the end of probably five weeks of dressings, right through the height of the Hendra season, though I guess the odds are much longer than Russian roulette, I hope. We are also lucky that we have a vet who will still come out to see horses, while a few others are understandably no longer prepared to take this quite significant risk. 

    There are plenty of flowering gum trees for the bats to eat at present where we live, so hopefully the flying foxes are reasonably healthy and not too stressed, even though the weather is pretty bad lately, which doesn't help. The more stressed the bats become during and after giving birth at this time of year, the more Hendra virus they shed. If only people would realise this and stop cutting down their roosting and food trees and trying to scare them away from places anywhere near humans and horses, creating even more of a problem for us all.
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    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    An Australian Woman has been exposed to Hendra virus while nursing her 7 month old, dying foal who was infected with the Hendra virus and she is now in a Queensland hospital, where she may be given an experimental Hendra virus antibody vaccine :-
    A woman has sustained high-level exposure to the deadly Hendra virus, authorities say.Tests on the foal that died on a property near Rockhampton on Wednesday confirmed it had Hendra.Authorities revealed the outbreak on Thursday.The woman and two others were exposed to the seven-month-old male foal that died on Sunday.Queensland's chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young says a vet and a male property owner received a low level of exposure to the virus.
    The woman, who is also the property owner, sustained a high level of exposure and was with the foal when it died, Dr Young said.'At this stage we're organising to transfer the lady down here to Brisbane, to the Princess Alexandra Hospital, which is of course where our centre of expertise on people with potential Hendra infections is,' she told reporters in Brisbane on Thursday.'She'll be transferred down here later this afternoon or this evening, as soon as we can organise a plane to move her down.'Dr Young said clinicians in Brisbane will assess the woman's exposure and, if necessary, offer her a new, untested antibody to the virus. She said the woman, whose age is not known, is being assessed for symptoms.
    'This is going to be a very difficult time for her and her family no matter what the outcome,' she said.The nature of the contact the woman had with the foal is unknown, but is defined under Queensland Health guidelines as high, Dr Young said.'High degree means there's been significant exposure to bodily fluids, both respiratory secretions and/or blood,' she said.The foal became sick last Friday, a vet was called on Saturday and the animal died on Sunday.Biosecurity Queensland was contacted on Monday and positive test samples were returned on Wednesday night.The property has been quarantined and two other horses and two dogs are being assessed, as well as neighbourhood dogs and horses.
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