Summary of Hendra virus incidents in horses
Hendra virus (HeV) was first isolated in 1994 in horses at a racing stable in Hendra, Brisbane.
The table below shows the location and date of each confirmed and possible HeV equine cases in Queensland and New South Wales, including clinical signs, observations in horses and other evidence.
|Date||Location||Confirmed cases|| Untested/|
|Clinical signs and observations*||Other evidence|
|August 1994||Mackay||2||0||Clinical signs to be confirmed*||These cases didn't become apparent until late 1995 when HeV infection was confirmed in a person from Mackay. Testing of stored samples from horses was undertaken in late 1995.|
|September 1994||Hendra, Brisbane||7||13||Clinical signs to be confirmed*||HeV was first identified and characterised as a result of this event. No diagnostic tests were available until after the event and not all horses were tested as samples were not retained from all horses. Strong epidemiological evidence exists for all horses involved to be considered as cases.|
|January 1999||Cairns||1||0||Clinical signs to be confirmed*|
|October 2004||Cairns||0||1||Restlessness, elevated heart rate, increased respiratory effort and profuse sweating, fever, blood-stained frothy secretions issuing from its nose||Strong epidemiological evidence exists for this horse. A veterinarian was confirmed serological positive for HeV after performing a necropsy on a horse that died suddenly with signs consistent with HeV. No samples from the horse were available for testing. The horse was the only identified potential source.|
|December 2004||Townsville||1||0||Depressed, fever, elevated heart rate and respiratory rate, brownish nasal discharge|
|June 2006||Peachester||1||0||Opisthotonus, restlessness, vocalising (terminal), elevated heart rate, elevated respiratory rate, fever, markedly swollen lips, purple gums, died suddenly|
|October 2006||Murwillumbah (NSW)||1||0||Lethargic, ataxic, penile erection, disorientation, mandibular swelling, dyspnoea, fever, wide-based stance, high stepping gait, occasional tongue protrusion, coughing|
|June 2007||Peachester||1||0||Wide-based stance, rocking, relaxed penis, colic signs, inappetent, lethargic, depressed demeanour, elevated heart rate, recumbent and unable to rise|
|July 2007||Cairns||1||0||Nasal discharge, wet lung sounds, fever, elevated heart rate, elevated respiratory rate, terminal neurological signs|
|June 2008||Redlands||5||3||Horses 1–3: Unknown.|
Horse 4: Inappetent, depressed, maniacal/erratic behaviour.
Horse 5: Head tilt, ataxic, circling, inappetent, depressed, fever, recumbent periods.
Horse 6: Central neurological signs, severely ataxic, inappetent, depressed, recumbent, thrashing violently.
Horse 7: Depressed, deteriorated rapidly.
Horse 8: Febrile, depressed
|Three horses have unresolved HeV status from this incident - all died at the veterinary clinic in the month before the first confirmed case with clinical signs consistent with possible HeV cases. Necropsies were not completed on the horses and only limited sub-standard laboratory samples were available for further testing with negative result for HeV.|
|July 2008||Proserpine||3||1||Horse 1: Unknown.|
Horse 2: Some respiratory manifestation, head down, non-responsive, elevated heart rate, swollen muzzle, recumbent, red fluids from mouth, died.
Horse 3: Short neurological illness, ataxic, recumbent, horse appeared very stressed, trouble standing and walking.
Horse 4: High stepping, dull
|One horse has an unresolved HeV status from this incident - a companion horse was found dead several days prior to the first confirmed case. Limited clinical history consistent with HeV infection was available. A necropsy was not performed. One of the 3 horses with a positive laboratory test was non-fatally infected and antibody-positive.|
|July 2009||Cawarral||3||1||Horse 1: Unknown.|
Horse 2: Heavy breathing, nasal froth, fever, elevated heart rate, elevated respiratory rate, blood slow to clot, difficulty walking, collapsed, died.
Horse 3: Progressive neuromuscular spasms, incoordination, died.
Horse 4: Possible mild neurological signs—weaving, head pressing, ataxic on day of euthanasia
|Strong epidemiological evidence exists for a horse which died 12 days prior to the first confirmed case. A veterinarian was confirmed positive for HeV infection after performing respiratory endoscopy on the horse. A second horse was confirmed as HeV positive on stored blood samples.|
|September 2009||Bowen||2||0||Horse 1: Shallow respiration, diaphragm twitching, muscle twitching, short stepping, reluctant to move, elevated heart rate, teeth grinding, head down, congested oral mucous membranes.|
Horse 2: Foam from mouth and nose, laterally recumbent with extensor rigidity, no gut sounds, fever, elevated heart rate, oral mucous membranes dry and congested, weak, jaw chomping, teeth grinding, rapid deterioration.
|A companion horse euthanased a month prior to the original confirmed case was also confirmed positive through laboratory testing.|
|May 2010||Tewantin||1||0||Twitching of mouth muscles, blindness, ataxic, seizures, inappetent, lethargic|
|June 2011||Beaudesert||1||0||Increased respiratory effort, hind limb incoordination, depressed, fever, congested oral mucous membranes with petechial haemorrhage, died|
|June 2011||Boonah||3||0||Horse 1: Colic, recumbent, thrashing.|
Horse 2: Twitching of muscles and eyes.
Horse 3: Slight nasal discharge, dull, depressed, fever, elevated heart rate
|Test results confirmed the presence of antibodies to HeV in a dog on this property. It was reported that the dog did not show any clinical signs of illness. No HeV genetic material was detected in PCR tests of samples collected from the dog on 3 occasions over a 3 week period. This was the first reported case of HeV antibody detection in a dog outside of an experimental setting.|
|June 2011||Logan||1||0||Ataxic, mild colic signs, fever, elevated heart rate, bloody ocular discharge|
|June 2011||Wollongbar (NSW)||2||0||Horse 1: Fever, congested mucous membranes, ataxic with wide-based stance, asymmetrical facial paralysis, blindness, euthanased.|
Horse 2: Depressed, fever, slightly ataxic, dyspnoea, copious amounts of nasal foam bilaterally after euthanasia
|July 2011||Park Ridge||1||0||Incoordination, fever, very weak, progression to death overnight|
|July 2011||Macksville (NSW)||1||0||Sudden onset depression, blindness, head pressing, died 36 hours after first signs|
|July 2011||Kuranda||1||0||Ataxic, disoriented, neck muscle fasciculation, circling, inappetent, recumbent, depressed|
|July 2011||Lismore (NSW)||1||0||Found dead. Observed normal by owners 24 hours previously|
|July 2011||Hervey Bay||1||0||Attempting to stand but stumbling, dry faeces, fever, elevated heart rate, oral mucous membranes injected, capillary refill time less than 4 seconds|
|July 2011||Boondall||1||0||Mild clear nasal discharge, acute onset ataxia, intermittent inappentance, lethargic fever|
|July 2011||Chinchilla||1||0||Terminal nasal discharge, ataxic, recumbent, dull demeanour, respiratory signs|
|July 2011||Mullumbimby (NSW)||1||0||Found dead. Observed normal by owners 18 hours previously|
|August 2011||Ballina (NSW)||1||0||Slightly ataxic then recumbent 12 hours later, muscle twitching, unable to stand and euthanased 3 hours later|
|August 2011||South Ballina (NSW)||2||0||Both horses (mare and foal) found dead. Absentee owner|
|August 2011||Mullumbimby (NSW)||1||0||Found dead. Observed normal by owners 15 hours previously|
|August 2011||Gold Coast Hinterland||1||0||Gait problem, lethargic, fever|
|August 2011||North Ballina (NSW)||1||0||Depressed, ataxic, wide-based stance. Found dead approximately 12 hours after onset of first signs|
|October 2011||Beachmere||2||1||Horse 1: Unknown.|
Horse 2: Ataxic, large distended bladder, decreased gut sounds, lethargic.
Horse 3: No clinical signs observed
|A horse became acutely ill and was euthanased approximately 1 week before the first confirmed case. There were no samples available from this horse to be tested.|
|January 2012||Townsville||1||0||Bilateral serous nasal discharge, blind, ataxic, sudden brief irritation, dull, fever, elevated heart rate, elevated respiratory rate, oral mucous membranes injected, capillary refill time greater than 4 seconds, clotting time 2 minutes, ileus, facial swelling|
|May 2012||Rockhampton||1||0||Elevated respiratory rate, fever, bilateral frothy nasal discharge, muffled heart sounds, bilateral epistaxis at death|
|May 2012||Ingham||1||0||Fever, ataxic, circling, hanging head, dull demeanour|
|June 2012||Mackay||1||0||Horse found moribund|
|July 2012||Rockhampton||3||0||Horse 1: Ataxic, apparent blindness, droopy bottom lip and salivation.|
Horse 2: Off food, reluctant to move, extended neck, muscle fasciculation, and increased respiratory effort.
Horse 3: Off food, dull demeanour, reluctant to move, hanging head, droopy bottom lip, ataxic, mild increase in respiratory effort, and pawing at ground
|July 2012||Cairns||1||0||Inappetent, tremors, staggering, neurological signs worse on handling, slight nasal discharge, elevated heart rate, elevated respiratory rate, fever, delayed capillary refill time, congested conjunctival and oral mucous membranes, grinding teeth, penis protruding, muscle fasciculation, and blood from nose at death|
|September 2012||Port Douglas||1||0||Ataxic, high stepping (left side), death|
|October 2012||Ingham||1||0||Anorexia, slight bilateral nasal discharge, laboured respiration (respiratory rate 20), heart rate 60, lowered head, unsteady on feet, progression to recumbency|
|January 2013||Mackay||1||0||Slow moving, ataxic, absent blink reflex, found dead approximately 24 hours after clinical signs were first noticed|
|February 2013||Atherton Tablelands||1||0||Slow moving, off food, ataxic. Found dead several days after the onset of clinical signs|
|June 2013||Macksville (NSW)||1||0||Observed normal in the early morning and found dead in the late afternoon|
|June 2013||Brisbane Valley||1||0||Depressed, unsteady on feet, reluctant to move, elevated heart rate and muddy mucous membranes, deteriorated and euthanased|
|July 2013||Gold Coast Hinterland||1||0||Off feed, dull, lethargic, elevated respiratory rate and mild bilateral serous nasal discharge, deteriorated to collapse, intermittent convulsions and unresponsive state, euthanased|
|July 2013||Macksville (NSW)||1||0||Ataxic, weak, stumbling and rolling|
|July 2013||Kempsey (NSW)||1||0||Ataxic, elevated heart rate, mild fever; neurological signs include loss of balance, staggering and laterally recumbent|
|July 2013||Kempsey (NSW)||1||0||Observed seriously ill and failed to respond to antibiotics|
|March 2014||Bundaberg||1||0||Off food, elevated respiratory rate, injected gums, frothy nasal discharge after death|
|June 2014||Beenleigh||1||0||Off food, small amount of green nasal discharge turned bloody at later stage, ataxic, mild fever and toxic mucous membranes|
|June 2014||Murwillumbah (NSW)||1||0||Found in swamp unable to stand|
|July 2014||Gladstone||1||0||Altered gait, off food, depressed, mild mucoid nasal discharge, died overnight|
|June 2015||Murwillumbah (NSW)||1||0||Lethargy for 2-3 days before to death|
|July 2015||Atherton Tableland||1||0||Observed acutely ill 3 days before death. Ataxia, discharge, no respiratory distress|
|September 2015||Lismore (NSW)||1||0||Observed to be unwell, off food, before it collapsed|
|December 2016||Casino (NSW)||1||0||The horse had been through a period of illness. Initial clinical signs observed included: failure to graze, nasal discharge, some ataxia, mild disorientation, weight loss and oral discomfort. Further behavioural abnormalities were seen prior to death||Initial samples collected at the start of illness tested negative for HeV PCR. Further samples collected a few weeks after horse became unwell again tested positive for HeV serology which showed the horse had mounted a strong immune response. Additional samples collected several days post death with 1 weak HeV PCR positive result.|
|May 2017||Gold Coast Hinterland||1||0||Depressed, inappetent, not walking, mild fever, elevated heart rate and respiratory ate. Euthanased after rapid deterioration|
|July 2017||Lismore (NSW)||1||0||Off feed, wobbly of feet, lethargic, euthanased after health condition deteriorated|
|August 2017||Murwillumbah (NSW)||1||0||Lethargic and not eating properly, unsteady on its feet and unwilling to move, decreased gut sounds, elevated temperature and poor blood circulatory function|
|August 2017||Lismore (NSW)||1||0||Observed unusually quiet and disorientated 1 day prior to showing clinical signs – fever, increased respiration, poor circulation, teeth grinding. Euthanased after rapid health deterioration|
|Tweed Heads (NSW)||1||0||Depressed and not eating. Worse by the next morning, fever and staggering. Euthanased.|
|June 2019||Scone, Upper Hunter Valley|
|1||0||Sudden onset of neurological signs and unresponsive. Euthanased.|
|Murwillumbah (NSW)||1||0||Depressed and having difficulty breathing. Euthanased after rapid health deterioration.|
|October 2021||West Wallsend near Newcastle (NSW)||1||0|
Neurological signs. Unvaccinated against HeV.
|Total||86, all deceased||20, all deceased|
*The clinical signs listed are taken from laboratory testing submission forms or media releases. Not all information for all cases was readily accessible to Biosecurity Queensland.