Hendra virus could vanish with widespread use of vaccine

THE zoonotic Hendra virus will likely “disappear” with widespread use of a new vaccine protecting horses, its developer says.

The virus, endemic in flying foxes, has claimed four Australian lives – a mortality rate of greater than 50% – since it emerged in 1994.

The equine vaccine could be ready by 2013, and will block the virus’s route of infection from bats to humans, said veterinary pathologist Dr Deborah Middleton (PhD), from the CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory.

All reported human cases of Hendra infection have been acquired from contact with an acutely infected horse, she said.