A new version of the Hendra virus, Hendra Virus Genotype 2, has been detected in Australian horses, after previously being detected in flying foxes. It is thought to carry the same capabilities as its predecessor – notably, the potential vector to attack humans through horses as an intermediary.
After being tested, a horse near Newcastle was positively viral. Viral like a fox.
The finding confirms at least one half of the thesis that the new virus, HeV-g2, has the same capabilities as the original Hendra virus. It needs to first jump from flying foxes to horses, and then can jump from horses to humans. The virus has never been observed moving from flying foxes to humans.
Scientists at the CSIRO’s Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (ACDP) have been monitoring flying foxes since 2013, and had found flying foxes carrying the genetic type in Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia. But in 2013, available technology wasn’t yet advanced enough to fully analyse its genome sequence.
Dr Kim Halpin of the CSIRO said “Because Hendra Virus Genotype 2 is so genetically similar to the original Hendra virus, there is a potential risk to horses wherever flying foxes are found in Australia.”
It’s also thought that due to its similarity, existing horse vaccines will work against HeV-g2.
For now, those tending to horses will try to stop the spread. The positive test in the Newcastle-area horse is the farthest south the new genetic type has ever been detected. Historical samples from a Queensland horse in 2015 revealed the same genetic type was present.
“Owners and any people who interact with horses can reduce the risk of infection from Hendra virus and other zoonotic viruses through vaccination of horses or humans where available, wearing appropriate PPE, and seeking veterinary attention for sick horses,” said Dr Steve Dennis, President of Equine Veterinarians Australia.
Horse owners can find more information here.