Flying foxes and Hendra virus

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.

All 4 of Australia's flying fox species are present in Queensland:

  • grey-headed (Pteropus poliocephalus)
  • black (P. alecto)
  • little red (P. scapulatus)
  • spectacled (P. conspicillatus).

Flying foxes are a natural reservoir for Hendra virus, although they do not show any signs of illness when infected. There is no evidence that other animals may act as a natural reservoir for Hendra virus.

Infection is periodically present in flying fox populations across Australia.

The virus has been detected in the blood, urine, faeces, placental material, aborted foetuses and birthing fluids of flying foxes.

Control of flying foxes

Although Hendra virus infection occurs naturally in flying foxes, culling of specific colonies is not an effective Hendra virus risk management strategy, because flying foxes continually move from one colony to another. Some individuals in any colony may only stay a day or two, while others may stay a week or two and some may stay a month or more.

Flying foxes are protected species. They are critical to our environment because they pollinate our native trees and spread seeds. Without flying foxes, we wouldn't have our eucalypt forests, rainforests and melaleucas.

There are circumstances when flying fox roost management may be appropriate. Depending on a range of factors, the management may involve low impact activities or more significant activities. Find out more about authorised flying-fox roost management.

There are also more effective ways to reduce the risk of spreading Hendra virus infection.

Flying foxes and trees

Flying foxes are attracted to a broad range of flowering and fruiting trees and vegetation as food sources. They prefer the nectar and pollen from trees and shrubs including eucalyptus, melaleucas and banksias.

Some examples of the trees and vegetation on Queensland properties where Hendra virus infection in horses has occurred are:

  • a range of fig trees (including the Moreton Bay fig tree)
  • melaleucas (including paperbarks)
  • eucalypts
  • bottlebrushes
  • mandarin trees
  • climbing asparagus vine
  • Cocos palm
  • white cedar trees.

Other trees and shrubs that may attract flying foxes include flowering or fruiting trees with soft fruits and stone fruits (e.g. mangoes and papaws), palms, lilly pillies and grevilleas.

Note: This is not an exhaustive list of trees/shrubs that attract flying foxes. This will vary by geographical area. You should identify the plants on your property that attract flying foxes to help you manage the risk of Hendra virus.

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