Sunday, January 22, 2012


Since we didn't really get around to Nipah and Hendra...

Hendra virus (a paramyxo) is an Australian BABO zoonotic virus (found in "flying foxes") that most commonly kills horses. Since discovered in 1994, many horses and 4/7 people have died from infection, but human-to-human transmission has not been recorded. Symptoms in horses include respiratory and neurological symptoms. The fatality rate is ~75%. Symptoms in humans can range from mild influenza-like illness to fatal pulmonary, neurologic, or systemic failure.

Most recently, a horse died from Hendra in Australia in early January, marking the 18th outbreak in a year. Some people are calling for the nearby bats to be killed or at least their population thinned, but others argue that this could distress the bats and lead to behavior that infects more horses.

It's interesting to me that we group Hendra and Nipah together in our panic about zoonotic viruses. Yes, they share many characteristics: structure, disease symptoms, spread by bats, and infection of local livestock. However, Nipah has killed many more people, infects a wider range of livestock (commonly pigs, our favorite mixing vessels), and can be transmitted from human to human (nosocomial spread!!). It has hit Malaysia, Singapore, Bangladesh, and India, making it more geographically important than Hendra. Currently, we don't have to worry much about Hendra virus, but perhaps we ought to worry about Nipah...


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