Hendra Virus Outbreak in Australia



Hendra Outbreak Attacks Queensland and NSW | News Tonight Africa


In Australia, an outbreak of Hendra virus has put horses and humans in danger, as detailed in the link above. Hendra is a Paramyxovirus found in bats.

Paramyxoviruses cause such human diseases as mumps and measles and such animal ailments as distemper, Rinderpest, and Newcastle disease. In recent years three more paramyxoviruses have emerged as threats to human health:

Hendra virus was formerly known as Equine morbillivirus. The natural reservoir for this virus appears to be fruit bats of the genus Pteropus. Through some route not yet identified, it occasionally passes to horses, causing a small outbreak of pneumonia. Human handlers have caught the disease from horses in a handful of cases. A few have died. People do not seem to get the disease directly from the bats, even when handling them. Scientists have recently diagnosed a case in a dog that lived on the same property as some infected horses. 

Nipah virus also occurs in Pteropus bats. It has emerged as yet another consequence of human hunger. As farms expand into previously unsettled areas of Malaysia, India, and Bangladesh, domestic pigs come into contact with the feces of fruit bats and with fallen fruit from which the bats have eaten. The pigs contract the virus, which causes them to get sick with respiratory symptoms. Humans who contact the pigs have come down with similar symptoms in some outbreaks; in others, encephalitis has been the main manifestation of the disease. A 1999 outbreak in Malaysia killed 105 people. Half a dozen other outbreaks are on record, some of them killing 75 percent of known victims. A few single cases have also been documented. Once the virus crosses into human populations, it can spread directly between people. There’s good evidence that some people have caught the disease from fruit contaminated by the bats themselves. Other bats besides the Pteropids carry the virus, but so far no evidence has linked them to human cases of the disease.

Menangle virus also has a reservoir in bats and has proved capable of infecting pigs. In 1977 it made two Australian farm workers seriously sick with respiratory symptoms. 

Photo: Paul Asman/Jill Lenoble: Creative Commons

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