Hendra virus and domestic animals - Frequently Asked Questions
Can companion animals become infected with Hendra virus?
Queensland authorities confirmed on July 26, 2011 that a dog had tested positive for Hendra virus. The dog developed Hendra antibodies but did not carry the virus in its blood or show any signs of disease.
This is the first time outside a laboratory that an animal other than a flying fox, horse, or a human has been confirmed with Hendra virus infection. The dog was on a Hendra quarantined property in Queensland and it is believed it got the virus after close contact with an infected horse.
Hendra is a very rare virus and with so few cases, not a lot is known about its distribution and under what conditions animals can become infected.
Cats, pigs, guinea pigs and ferrets have developed infection with Hendra virus in laboratory conditions only. None of these species have become infected with the Hendra virus naturally.
Can my dog catch Hendra virus through direct contact with flying foxes?
There is no evidence to suggest that dogs can be infected with Hendra virus directly from flying foxes. The only dog that has tested positive for Hendra virus is believed to have been infected via close contact with an infected horse. The risk of a dog being infected by direct contact with a flying foxes (including flying fox faeces, urine or eating or playing with a flying fox) appears extremely low. Research is continuing to increase our understanding of the transmission of Hendra virus between flying foxes, horses, dogs and humans.
What should I do with other animals on my property if my horse is sick?
Sick horses be isolated and separated from all other animals on the property (including dogs, cats and other horses).
How does a dog catch Hendra virus from a horse?
Current knowledge indicates dogs may be infected with Hendra virus by having close contact with a live or dead horse infected with Hendra virus.
Research is continuing to increase the understanding of how Hendra virus is transmitted between species.
Good hygiene practices should always be applied when dealing with sick horses. Owners should prevent dogs from having contact with sick horses, or their body fluids or wastes.
Can my dog get Hendra virus from eating horse manure?
The likelihood of a dog becoming infected with Hendra virus from eating horse manure is minimal. Dogs should be discouraged from eating horse manure as a general biosecurity precaution, especially if the horse is sick. This is a preventative measure for many diseases and parasitic infections.
Can my dog catch Hendra virus from eating fruit of nuts found under a tree where flying foxes are active?
There is no evidence to suggest that dogs can become infected with Hendra virus from ingesting fallen fruit or nuts from trees where flying foxes are active. However palm nuts may cause problems if ingested (e.g. gastrointestinal tract obstruction).
Can I get Hendra virus from a dog?
There is no current evidence to suggest that dogs can infect humans with Hendra virus. In all seven human Hendra cases, people became infected following close contact with the respiratory secretions and/or blood from an infected horse.
What do I do if flying foxes fly over or visit my yard where I keep my dogs?
There is no current evidence that flying foxes pose a risk of direct Hendra virus transmission to dogs. However, as a general biosecurity and hygiene precaution, you should prevent dogs from having direct contact with flying foxes (alive or dead) to minimise the risk of the dog's exposure to disease and injury.
How do I protect my dog or cat?
NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) recommends that people keep all domestic animals away from sick horses (suspect Hendra virus cases) and areas contaminated with their urine or faeces, to reduce the possible risk of exposure to the virus. It is good biosecurity to keep healthy animals away from sick ones, regardless of the cause of the illness.
What biosecurity measures are in place for companion animals?
NSW DPI’s policy is to routinely test companion animals that have had close contact with an infected horse. Any properties on which Hendra virus is identified are quarantined and movement restrictions are imposed on all domestic animals, including dogs and cats.
If there is a horse carcass on my property, what should I do with my other pets?
If a horse has died on your property for any reason, you should prevent all animals, including dogs and cats, from coming into contact with the carcass.
What should I do when I take my dog to an off-leash area?
There is no current evidence to suggest that dogs can be infected directly from flying foxes. As a general biosecurity precaution, dog owners should prevent dogs from having direct contact with flying foxes (alive or dead), to minimise the dog´s risk of exposure to disease and injury.
How do I reduce the chances of my horses becoming infected?
NSW DPI advises horse owners to take precautions in areas with flying foxes - to reduce the risk of their horses becoming infected:
- Do not place feed and water under trees.
- Cover feed and water containers with a shelter so they cannot be contaminated from above.
- Do not leave food lying about that could attract flying foxes, such as apples, carrots, or molasses.
- Inspect paddocks regularly and identify trees that are flowering or fruiting,
- Remove horses from paddocks where fruiting or flowering trees have temporarily attracted flying foxes.
- If the horse(s) cannot be removed from the paddock, erect temporary or permanent fencing to keep horses from grazing under trees.
- If these measures are not practical, consider stabling horses, or removing them from the paddock before dusk and overnight, when flying foxes are most active.
- Clean up any fruit debris under the trees before horses are returned to the paddock.
What should I do if I find a dead or injured bat?
Never touch or pick up a flying fox. Contact WIRES on 13 00 094 737.
If the bat has bitten or scratched an animal, such as a dog or cat, contact your private veterinarian.
For more information on Bats and health risks see Bats and health risks.
More Questions and Answers can be found on our General Hendra Virus - Frequently Asked Questions page.