Australian scientists have identified a new strain of the deadly Hendra virus that was the cause of a previously unexplained horse death in September 2015.
The newly recognised variant, identified by the Australian veterinarian-led research project, ‘Horses as Sentinels’, had not been detected previously by routine biosecurity testing in horses.
They have also established that the current Hendra virus horse vaccine is expected to be equally effective against the new strain.
Hendra virus is highly lethal in both horses and humans, with mortality rates about 79% and 60% respectively. The originally recognised strain of Hendra virus has resulted in the deaths of four humans and over 100 horses in Australia, since 1994.
Hendra virus was first identified in 1994 when racehorse trainer Vic Rail died after suffering a mysterious pneumonia-like illness when 20 racehorses in Hendra, Queensland, also died. Subsequently, a previously unknown virus was identified as the cause of both the trainer’s and the horses’ deaths. The attending veterinarian was Dr Peter Reid.