A warmer winter this year could pose a risk for Hendra virus cases

May 6, 2020

BatOneHealth is a global team of experts working across multiple scales to learn the causes of spillover and find sustainable solutions that protect future generations from zoonotic disease. Our research in Australia focuses on the complex interactions between climate, land use change, flying fox ecology, Hendra virus dynamics and spillover into horses. In particular, our long-term studies of this system enable us to identify processes that drive Hendra virus spillover and predict periods of increased risk, allowing pre-emptive interventions.

The winter of 2011 saw 17 Hendra virus spillover events in subtropical Australia. In 2017, we published a News piece in the Australian Veterinary Journal that highlighted the potential for heightened spillover risk that winter, based on similarities in climatic and ecological conditions leading up to winter 2017 and winter 2011. Indeed, winter 2017 saw the largest numbers of spillovers within a year in the SE Qld/NE NSW region since the Hendra virus vaccine was introduced. Recent conditions lead us to predict that winter 2020 also represents a period of heightened risk for Hendra virus spillover. Actions now by veterinarians and their clients can change this outcome.

We, therefore, urge veterinarians, their staff and their clients to review AVA and government guidelines for mitigating the risk of Hendra virus spillover. Last year’s spillover to a horse in the Upper Hunter region of NSW cautions against rigid expectations of the geographical risk zone for Hendra virus spillovers.

Peggy Eby 1, 2, Raina K. Plowright 1,3, Hamish McCallum1, Alison J. Peel1


1 Environmental Futures Research Institute, Griffith University, Nathan, Queensland, Australia

2 School of Biological, Earth, and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

3 Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana, USA

For more Hendra virus information go to:
Biosecurity Queensland
Australian Veterinary Association