CANBERRA, Oct. 14 (Xinhua) -- Australia's national science agency has found a new type of potentially deadly Hendra virus in flying foxes.
In a report published on Wednesday, researchers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) confirmed that the new strain - HeV-g2 - has been detected in a horse near Newcastle in New South Wales (NSW).
It marks the most southern case of Hendra virus ever recorded in Australia and confirms that the new strain is a zoonotic pathogen, meaning it can be transmitted from the flying foxes in which it originated to horses and from horses to people.
Hendra virus was discovered following an outbreak in a horse racing stable in the Brisbane suburb of Hendra in 1994. It has a high fatality rate among horses and people.
Previous research had found the new strain in flying foxes - also known as fruit bats - in Queensland and NSW but the report from the CSIRO's Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (ACDP) also found it in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.
Kim Halpin, the lead author of the study, said spillover to horses had only been confirmed in Queensland and NSW.
"However, because Hendra Virus Genotype 2 is so genetically similar to the original Hendra virus, there is a potential risk to horses wherever flying foxes are found in Australia," she said in a media release.
"It's important to note that Hendra has never been reported to spread directly from flying foxes to humans - it's always been transmitted from infected horses to humans. We expect this new genetic type would behave the same way."
The report prompted Equine Veterinarians Australia (EVA) to warn horse owners in areas with fruit bats to take every precaution.
"Owners and any people who interact with horses can reduce the risk of infection from Hendra virus and other zoonotic viruses through vaccination of horses or humans where available, wearing appropriate PPE, and seeking veterinary attention for sick horses," EVA president Steve Dennis said. Enditem