Australian veterinarian in coma after contracting virus from horse

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Aug 22, 2009
By dvm360.com staff
Brisbane, Australia -- An equine practitioner from Queensland, Australia, is in a medically induced coma after contracting the potentially fatal Hendra virus from a horse, according to the Australian Horse Industry Council (AHIC).

Two horses that died in July and August have tested positive for the virus, and Queensland's government biosecurity organization has two properties, with an additional 25 horses, under quarantine, according to Australian news reports.

Three of the six people infected with the Hendra virus since 1994 died from the disease, which is carried by flying foxes (fruit-eating bats) and transmitted to horses, according to information on the AHIC Web site. The virus kills up to 80 percent of infected horses, and the remainder are destroyed to safeguard humans. No cases of human-to-human infection have been reported.

All 30 Hendra outbreaks in horses have been in Australia, where the virus was first discovered in 1994.

Another equine veterinarian died last August from the disease. Two of the doctor’s colleagues were treated for potential Hendra infection but survived.