Hendra virus disease (HeV infection) is caused by a virus in the Paramyxoviridae family, genus Henipavirus. HeV was initially discovered in 1994 from specimens taken in Hendra, a suburb of Brisbane, Australia, during an outbreak of respiratory and neurologic illness in horses and people. The Nipah virus, also a species belonging to the genus Henipavirus, is linked to this one.

Since then, researchers have determined that the flying fox acts as the natural reservoir for the Hendra virus (bats of the genus Pteropus). Infections caused by the Hendra virus in humans have remained extremely uncommon since 1994; as of 2013, just seven instances had been documented.


Hendra virus disease (HeV infection) in horses can produce various symptoms. Symptoms often include a quick start of sickness, fever, elevated heart rate, and rapid worsening of respiratory and neurological (nervous system) symptoms. 

Symptoms usually appear between 5 and 21 days after coming into contact with an infected horse. Typical first signs and symptoms include:

  • cough
  • fatigue
  • fever
  • headache
  • sore throat

It is possible to develop meningitis or encephalitis, both inflammations of the brain, which can lead to headaches, high fevers, sleepiness, and even convulsions and coma in severe cases.


The following laboratory tests are used to diagnose Hendra virus disease (HeV infection) and Nipah virus (NV):

  • ELISA (IgG and IgM) for antibody detection
  • real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR)
  • virus isolation attempts

In most countries, they must handle the Hendra virus in high-security facilities. During the acute and convalescent phases of the disease, a patient with a clinical history of HV or NV can be diagnosed in the laboratory utilizing a combination of assays that includes:

  • Antibody detection in serum or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)
  • CSF or throat swabs
  • Isolation of viruses from CSF or throat swabs
  • RT-PCR detection of viral RNA in serum


There is no particular therapy for Hendra virus infection, and patients are handled in a hospital or critical care unit on a supportive basis. Antiviral drugs do not help treat Hendra virus disease (HeV infection). People who have had high exposure to an infected horse’s bodily fluids may be provided with an experimental therapy with a kind of antibody that may prevent illness.

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