Global Alert and Response (GAR)

Hendra Virus (HeV) Infection

Hendra virus (HeV) infection is a rare emerging zoonosis that causes severe 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 that took place in the Brisbane suburb of Hendra, Australia, in 1994. The outbreak involved 21 horses and two human cases. As of July 2008, eleven outbreaks have been reported, all confined to the east cost of Australia. Horses have been identified as the intermediate hosts, transmitting infection to humans through close contact during care or necropsy of the ill or dead horses.

Symptoms of HeV infection in humans range from mild influenza-like illness to fatal respiratory or neurological disease. Horses are the only animal species in which natural infection of HeV has been reported, with a case fatality of approximately 75%. There is no vaccine for either humans or animals. The primary treatment for human cases is intensive supportive care.


Contact information

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