The Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) in Geelong has confirmed that a dog has tested positive for Hendra virus.
Queensland Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Rick Symons said this was an unprecedented situation.
“This is the first time outside of a laboratory that an animal other than a flying fox or a horse, or a human, has been confirmed with Hendra virus infection,” Dr Symons said.
“The dog is on a property where Hendra virus infection has been confirmed and is currently under quarantine.
“Biosecurity Queensland’s policy is to test cats and dogs on properties where there are infected horses.
“In this case, the dog returned two negative results for the presence of the virus but a different type of test conducted at AAHL has confirmed the presence of antibodies.
“This means that at some point the dog has been exposed to the virus but to our knowledge has shown no signs of illness.”
Dr Symons said this case raised many questions for biosecurity and health officials and researchers.
“We don’t know how the dog contracted the virus or when it happened,” he said.
“Based on our knowledge to date, it is most likely that the dog caught the virus from an infected horse.
“The remaining horses and dogs on this property are still being monitored daily and show no signs of illness.
“Biosecurity Queensland has tested other cats and dogs on the eleven properties currently under quarantine in Queensland and has received no other positive results.
“We recommend that people keep dogs and cats away from sick horses to reduce the risk of such an infection happening.”
Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said Queensland Health would today speak with the property owners to assess if there were any further people who may have had contact with the infected dog.
"We will continue to monitor the property owners and all previously identified contacts for infected horses on this property," Dr Young said.
"While we have not seen Hendra virus in a dog before, I believe there is a minimal risk of infection to humans from this animal. For a human to become infected, they would have had to have significant contact with bodily secretions (saliva and/or blood) that contain the Hendra virus."
Dr Young said Queensland Health continued to have a number of staff working on the Hendra response, including public health officials, medical and testing staff.
"Staff are also available to assist anyone with concerns via 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84), and mental health staff are on standby to provide counselling or support," she said.
Up to date information on Hendra virus is available at www.biosecurity.qld.gov.au or phone 13 25 23.