Killer horse virus spreads in Australia

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GMT - 3 Hours Killer horse virus spreads in Australia

Post by Generous on Tue Sep 20, 2011 9:10 pm

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SYDNEY: Australian officials were on Saturday working to isolate potential victims after uncovering two more cases of the deadly horse-borne Hendra virus, which had now spread to a second state.

Spread to humans from horses, Hendra can lead to fatal respiratory illness and has killed four of the seven people who have contracted it in Australia since it was first documented in 1994.

A fresh outbreak was detected in northern Queensland state in June, with eight people undergoing tests after exposure to a sick animal.

Queensland authorities said they had discovered a second case, about 70 kilometres (40 miles) from the first farm, which had forced two horses to be put down. The outbreaks were not believed to be linked.

Officials were trying to determine how many people had been exposed to the infected animals.

A third case had also been identified in neighbouring New South Wales state, according to biosecurity officials there, who stressed that any link with the Queensland outbreaks was unlikely.

It is only the second time Hendra has been found in New South Wales.

Nine people exposed to the sick horse were being tested for the killer virus, but they were at low to medium risk.

Named after the Brisbane suburb in which is was first documented and believed unique to Australia, Hendra is believed to be carried by fruit bats (flying foxes) and spread via their urine and droppings.

The bats, which have no symptoms of disease, then pass the infection to horses, possibly via half-chewed fruit or other water or food they contaminate, and these animals then transmit it to humans.

Around 50 horses have died, or had to be put down, in 15 outbreaks of the virus since 1994. (AFP)

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