Tuesday 26 July 2011

Hendra virus confirmed in dog

hendra virus
Hendra virus has been detected for the first time in a dog, raising the prospect the virus is capable of crossing from horses. Source: The Courier-Mail

A DOG has for the first time contracted the lethal Hendra virus, adding a chilling new dimension to the disease emergency in Queensland and northern NSW.

Queensland Chief Vet Rick Symons said the transmission of the virus to an animal other than a horse was unprecedented.

The disease is known to be carried by flying foxes and passed on to horses, and through them to people. But never before has it been seen outside a laboratory infecting another species.

The crossover of the virus to dogs raised many questions for biosecurity and health officials and researchers, Dr Symons said.

This is the first time outside of a laboratory that an animal other than a flying fox or a horse or a human has been confirmed with Hendra virus infection, he told a press conference in Brisbane, in the presence of Premier Anna Bligh.

The dog is believed to have contracted the virus from an infected horse on one of the properties near Brisbane under quarantine. Other cats and dogs there were now being tested.

The dog returned two negative results for the virus but a different type of test conducted at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Victoria had confirmed the presence of Hendra antibodies.

"This means that at some point the dog has been exposed to the virus but to our knowledge has shown no signs of illness,'' Dr Symons said.

Fourteen horses have so far died in the outbreaks that have erupted across Queensland, from Cairns to the southwestern town of Chinchilla, and near Lismore and Coffs Harbour in NSW.

Dozens of people are being monitored for signs of ill health, but none has so far shown symptoms of the disease known to have killed four people since 1994. Only three have survived infection with Hendra.

Premier Anna Bligh said testing showed antibodies for the disease in the animal, although the dog appeared healthy.

It's thought the dog was on a property where one of the first of the recent cases was detected near Beaudesert in June.

"We've had confirmation that a dog on one of the properties that had a horse die of this disease has been confirmed positive," Ms Bligh told reporters in Brisbane on Tuesday

The remaining horses and dogs on this property are still being monitored daily and show no signs of illness. Biosecurity Queensland's policy is to test cats and dogs on properties where there are infected horses.

Tests on cats and dogs on 11 properties currently under quarantine in Queensland have turned up no other positive results.

Queensland's chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young said Queensland Health would speak with the property owners to see who may have had contact with the infected dog.
Author | Source | Jamie Walker | The Australian | July 26th

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