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Hendra virus infection in a veterinarian

Jeffrey N Hanna, William J McBride, Dianne L Brookes, Jack Shield, Carmel T Taylor, Ina L Smith, Scott B Craig and Greg A Smith
Med J Aust 2006; 185 (10): 562-564.

A veterinarian became infected with Hendra virus (HeV) after managing a terminally ill horse and performing a limited autopsy with inadequate precautions. Although she was initially only mildly ill, serological tests suggested latent HeV infection. Nevertheless, she remains well 2 years after her initial illness. Recently emerged zoonotic viruses, such as HeV, necessitate appropriate working procedures and personal protective equipment in veterinary practice.

Hendra virus (HeV) and Nipah virus together comprise the genus Henipavirus within the family Paramyxoviridae (Box 1).1 HeV, formerly called equine morbillivirus, was first described after an outbreak of severe respiratory disease in horses, leading to the deaths of 14 horses and a horse trainer in Brisbane in September 1994.2,3 The trainer had had very close manual contact with frothy nasal and oral secretions, some of which were blood-tinged, from several of the very ill horses, as did a stable-hand; he developed an influenza-like illness but made a full recovery. The horses and both people were infected with HeV.2,3

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  • Jeffrey N Hanna1
  • William J McBride2
  • Dianne L Brookes1
  • Jack Shield3
  • Carmel T Taylor4
  • Ina L Smith4
  • Scott B Craig4
  • Greg A Smith4

  • 1 Queensland Health, Cairns, QLD.
  • 2 James Cook University, Cairns, QLD.
  • 3 Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, Cairns, QLD.
  • 4 Public Health Virology, Queensland Health Scientific Services, Brisbane, QLD.


Acknowledgements: 

We wish to thank the veterinarian, her colleague who first notified the incident, and the owners of the horse. We also wish to thank the medical practitioner concerned.

Competing interests:

None identified.

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