Confirmed Hendra Virus horse death in Newcastle, NSW

19 Jul 2023

On Saturday night (15th July) a veterinarian attended a horse unvaccinated for Hendra virus that was unwell.  The clinical signs were injected mucous membranes, pyrexia, inappetence, bilateral nasal discharge, and mild neurological signs. The horse died on Sunday and was confirmed to be PCR positive to Hendra virus on Tuesday evening July 18th. The detection of the virus was confirmed through testing at NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute. This is the first confirmed detection of Hendra virus in NSW since October 2021. The DPI and Local Land Services (LLS) are working with the private veterinarians, Hunter New England Health, and the owners.

The AVA's special interest group, Equine Veterinarians Australia (EVA) advises that owners and any people who interact with horses can reduce the risk of infection from Hendra virus by:

  1. Vaccination of horses, which is the most effective way to help manage Hendra virus disease.  
  2. Wearing appropriate personal protection equipment – Suit Up AND PPE for Equine Veterinarian. See links below.
  3. Client paddock horse management - remove feed and water from underneath trees frequented by flying foxes, move horses out of paddocks when trees attractive to flying foxes are flowering.

Signs of infection can be non-specific in the early stages and anyone who is concerned about possible Hendra infection should isolate the horse and seek veterinary advice. Veterinarians should use appropriate PPE and advice clients to avoid contact with their horses until Hendra exclusion results are obtained.

There have now been 67 confirmed outbreak incidences in Australia, including 25 horse deaths in NSW as a result of Hendra virus on 24 properties, since the first case in 2006. There have been no human deaths from Hendra virus in NSW. 

Hendra virus infection is notifiable in NSW under the NSW Biosecurity Act 2015, by calling the Emergency Animal Disease Hotline on 1800 675 888.

Two excellent EVA Videos on PPE for veterinarians are available HERE and the AVA’s Hendra Virus Policy can be found HERE. Further information can be found at the NSW Government and QLD Government sites.