Hendra virus information for equestrian events

Hendra virus detected in Mackay

A confirmed case of Hendra virus has been detected in the Mackay area on 8 July 2022.

This is Queensland's first case of Hendra virus since 2017.

Contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your animal may have Hendra virus infection. Veterinarians that suspect Hendra virus infection in a patient should follow standard procedures to investigate the situation.

After the successful eradication of equine influenza (EI) in Australia in 2007–2008, it remains vital that all involved in equestrian activities continue to follow good biosecurity measures to minimise the risk of spreading infectious diseases.

Event organisers and competitors at equestrian events have a general biosecurity obligation (GBO) to take all reasonable and practical measures to prevent or minimise the effects of a biosecurity risk. Hendra virus poses a serious biosecurity risk. This means that event organisers and competitors are legally required to reduce the risk of Hendra virus infection and limit the spread of Hendra virus when dealing with horses and other possible carriers.

Recommendations for event organisers

Prepare and implement a biosecurity plan

Preventing the introduction of an infectious disease at a horse event is vital. A biosecurity plan outlines the precautions taken to minimise the risk of introducing an infectious disease into an animal population.

A biosecurity plan may include:

  • a veterinarian on call or present during the event
  • a method of making emergency phone calls or alternative communication
  • a plan to minimise public access to stable areas
  • separate vehicle parking for competitors and spectators
  • single entry and exit to grounds
  • adequate hand-hygiene facilities especially in eating and horse-handling areas
  • a designated isolation area (or stable) for sick horses
  • good hygiene practice for officials/stewards between horses
  • a contingency plan in case a stock standstill or movement restrictions are declared
  • any biosecurity requirements to participate in events, including consideration of vaccination or other risk mitigation strategies.

Find a biosecurity workbook for horse venues (PDF, 2.2MB) and other biosecurity plan templates.

Keep event records

Under the Biosecurity Act 2014, event organisers must keep records of each horse that has attended their event.

These records can be kept in any format (including electronic form), as long as they can be produced if requested by an inspector under the Act. The records must be kept for 2 years.

Horse health declarations used as an entry condition may meet this requirement, as long as all the necessary details are recorded.

If using horse health declarations as the record, ensure that both the event organiser and competitor keep a copy.

The following record details must be captured:

  • details of the place that the horse came from and the name and address of the person that delivered the horse before the event
  • details of the place the horse is being moved to and the name and address of the person that will receive the horse after the event
  • description of the horse
  • date of the event
  • when the horse arrived and left the event.

Read more about livestock movement records.

View an example of a horse health declaration.

Recommendations for competitors

The responsibility for good biosecurity practices at horse events starts with the horse owners and competitors long before the event. Practise good biosecurity, good hygiene and decontamination of equipment.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water or use hand wipes and waterless hand hygiene solution immediately after handling horses.
  • Do not share equipment, including food and water containers, between horses. Avoid communal water troughs.
  • Do not knowingly take sick horses to an event.
  • If a horse is unwell at an event, notify an event official.
  • Stop all non-essential contact with the sick horse and blood or body fluids from the horse until a veterinarian has excluded Hendra virus as the cause of illness.
  • Do not allow anyone to have close contact with a sick horse, at least until Hendra virus infection has been ruled out by a veterinarian.
  • Promptly isolate sick horses and seek veterinary advice. Also isolate any equipment that has been in contact with the sick horse.

Under the Biosecurity Act 2014, you must create a livestock movement record when moving horses between properties in Queensland. This includes moving horses to equestrian events, including training events. The record must be created before the animal is moved.

A copy of the movement record must be kept by the person completing it and the person receiving horses for 2 years or 5 years if the horses are moving between cattle tick zones.

Read more about livestock movement records and find a movement record template.

Read the Hendra virus – Biosecurity information for equestrian events fact sheet.