Emergencies preparedness, response

Hendra Virus (HeV) Infection

Hendra virus (HeV) infection is a rare emerging zoonosis that causes severe and often fatal disease in both infected horses and humans. The natural host of the virus has been identified as being fruit bats of the Pteropodidae Family, Pteropus genus.

HeV was first identified during the first recorded outbreak of the disease in the Brisbane suburb of Hendra, Australia, in 1994. The outbreak involved 21 stabled racehorses and two human cases. As of July 2016, 53 disease incidents involving over 70 horses have been reported. These were all confined to the north-eastern coast of Australia. A total of seven humans have contracted Hendra virus as ‘spillover’ events from infected horses, particularly through close contact during care or necropsy of ill or dead horses.

Symptoms of HeV infection in humans range from mild influenza-like illness to fatal respiratory or neurological disease. There is no specific treatment for human cases of Hendra virus. Intensive supportive care is provided and the use of monoclonal antibodies is being investigated. There is a registered Hendra animal vaccine and vaccination is recognised as an effective way to reduce the risk of horses becoming infected, and reducing the likelihood of human exposure.

Contact information

Department of Pandemic and Epidemic Diseases
World Health Organization
Avenue Appia 20
1211 Geneva 27
Switzerland