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Hendra virus re-visited


Hendra virus, a novel member of the family Paramyxovirus that has emerged from bats in Australia, causes fatal disease in livestock and humans. Eleven spillover events have been identified since the first description of the virus in 1994, resulting in a total of 37 equine cases and six human cases. All human cases have been attributed to exposure to infected horses; there is no evidence of bat-to-human or human-to-human transmission. Low infectivity and a high case fatality rate are features of Hendra virus infection in both horses and humans. The temporal pattern of spillover events suggests seasonal factors (plausibly be environmental, biological or ecological) as the proximate triggers for spillover. Minimisation of the future occurrence and impact of Hendra virus infections requires an understanding of the ecology of flying foxes, of virus infection dynamics in flying foxes, and of the factors that promote spillover. Management strategies seek to minimize the opportunity for effective contact between bats and horses, and limit potential horse-to-horse and horse-to-human transmission. Incomplete knowledge of the ecology of the virus, of the proximate factors associated with spillover, and the inherent difficulties of effectively managing wild populations, preclude a management approach targeted at bats.

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Correspondence to Hume Field.

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Field, H. Hendra virus re-visited. Virol. Sin. 24, 105–109 (2009).

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  • Q939.4

Key words

  • Hendra virus
  • Bats
  • Zoonoses
  • Emergence
  • Epidemiology