At certain times of the year (generally September to November for black and grey flying foxes, and April to May for little red flying foxes) flying foxes may secrete the Hendra virus (HeV) in body fluids such as urine, saliva and birthing fluids. Horses can become infected with the virus if they ingest or inhale these contaminated secretions.
It is a rare disease but a very serious one. Horses become very sick but also they can infect humans and currently there is no treatment for the disease in humans or horses. There have been several human deaths from HeV.
Horses that test positive for HeV are routinely euthanased by the Government for the protection of other horses and humans.
The best protection for your horse is to keep it away from bats and from places where it may ingest or inhale contaminated flying fox secretions. Actions include:
- Do not allow horses to graze near flying fox roosts
- Do not allow horses to feed or access water under flying fox food trees
- Do not have water troughs under flying fox food trees
- Do not leave horses in paddocks to rest under flying fox food trees
- Vaccinating your horse against Hendra virus
- Immediately seek veterinary attention for a sick horse and isolate it