Flying Fox
Flying foxes have been linked to the spread of Hendra virus

October 13, 2021

Researchers have developed a test for a new variant of the Hendra virus which was confirmed during routine surveillance in NSW.

The new variant was identified in a horse from West Wallsend, near Newcastle.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said researchers from the CSIRO and the University of Sydney investigated laboratory samples from horses which were previously suspected of having Hendra virus but had all tested negative.

“They found evidence of a novel virus, later confirmed as a new variant and have now developed a diagnostic tool specific to detect it,” Minister Littleproud said.

“The research and now this detection highlights that the geographic distribution of Hendra virus-carrying bats is likely much greater than once thought.

“Fortunately, this does not change our animal health status but it does remind us of the importance of continued investment in surveillance and science for our biosecurity system.”

Science Minister Melissa Price said the new test would significantly reduce infection risks for veterinarians and frontline equine workers.

“Horses that may have tested negative under previous tests can now be confirmed as positive Hendra cases, which allows the risk to be managed through use of personal protection equipment and appropriate biosecurity practices,” Minister Price said.

“Horse owners will need to continue prudent risk management to minimise the potential for contact between all flying-foxes and horses, and to vaccinate their horses against Hendra virus.”

Hendra virus is a zoonotic disease hosted by native flying foxes and transmittable to horses. It can be passed on to humans from infected horses and can be fatal.

The West Wallsend case is the southern-most Hendra detection to date.

  • More information about the new Hendra variant is available on the CSIRO website


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