Responding to suspected Hendra virus infection

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.

There are processes in place to help if you suspect Hendra virus infection on your property.

Horse owners and people that manage horses have a legal obligation (general biosecurity obligation) 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 horse owners 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.

Who to contact if you suspect Hendra virus

If you suspect Hendra virus infection in your horse, contact your local veterinarian immediately. Veterinarians that suspect Hendra virus infection in a patient should follow standard procedures to investigate the situation.

If you have human health concerns at any time, you should seek medical advice. Contact your general practitioner, local hospital emergency department or local public health unit if you are concerned about possible exposure of people to a horse with Hendra virus infection.

Direct general enquiries about Hendra virus infection in humans to the Queensland Health Hotline on 13HEALTH (13 43 25 84).

For information about managing the risk of Hendra virus in the workplace, contact Workplace Health and Safety Queensland on 1300 362 128.

What to do while waiting for test results

If your veterinarian believes that your horse may have Hendra virus, they will take samples from your horse for testing at a government laboratory. Initial test results are usually available 1 working day after the laboratory receives the samples.

While you are waiting for test results, follow these guidelines:

  • Avoid close contact with the horse under investigation and any other horses that have been in contact with it.
  • If you must have close contact with a horse under investigation, follow the advice in our information on personal protective equipment and reducing the risk of Hendra virus infection.
  • Isolate sick horses from other horses, people and animals until you receive the test results.
  • Provide feed and water for any horses on the property from a distance if required.
  • Observe horses from a distance and notify your veterinarian immediately of any deterioration in the health status of any horses on the property.

If the test result is negative, your veterinarian may wish to take more samples to further investigate your horse's illness.

If your horse tests positive for Hendra virus

If laboratory tests confirm the presence of Hendra virus infection, Biosecurity Queensland will work with affected people to manage the situation. The actions that need to occur on the property are aimed at limiting the spread of Hendra virus and preventing disease transmission to humans and other animals. These measures may include:

  • a risk assessment to determine animals that may have been exposed to Hendra virus
  • restricting the movement of animals and contaminated material from the property
  • testing animals assessed as being at risk of exposure to Hendra virus
  • tracing horses that have moved off the property in the previous few weeks. These horses may possibly be tested for Hendra virus
  • assessing neighbouring properties for the risk of exposure to the infected animal. Testing and monitoring may be carried out and movement restrictions applied as a result of this assessment
  • testing other animals on the property for Hendra virus if required, including pets. Movement of these animals may also be restricted.

Note: As the horse owner, it will be your responsibility to meet your horses' general husbandry needs during this time, which includes the treatment of non-Hendra virus illnesses or injuries.

Biosecurity Queensland will notify Queensland Health. Queensland Health will coordinate risk assessments and appropriate follow-up for people who may have been exposed to the virus. We'll also advise Workplace Health and Safety Queensland if the site is considered a worksite.

Biosecurity Queensland will also notify the appropriate professional bodies, including the Australian Veterinary Association and Equine Veterinarians Australia. We will not release private details in these notifications.