Thursday, June 27, 2013

Hendra Virus Research Program

The impact of human behaviour on the spread of the Hendra virus is being studied to help develop control strategies.

HHALTER (Horse owners and Hendra Virus: A Longitudinal cohort study To Evaluate Risk) is a three-year project funded by the Commonwealth of Australia, the State of New South Wales, the State of Queensland and the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation under the National Hendra Virus Research Program.

The project aims to look at how humans respond to the threat of Hendra virus, and what can be done by horse owners and others in regular contact with horses  to reduce the chance of transmission from flying foxes to horses and then to humans.

The researchers hope to attract more than 2500 people, horse owners and people in regular contact with horses, from all sectors of the equine industry throughout Australia.  It is not only residents of areas where Hendra virus cases have already occurred that are sought for the study. People living in parts of Australia  that have not seen cases of the disease are encouraged to take part as well.

Participants are asked to complete five surveys conducted at six-month intervals. The surveys investigate the factors influencing people’s awareness about the risks from Hendra virus and their use of prevention strategies.

Dr Kate Sawford,  Research Associate in Animal Health Biosecurity at the University of Sydney, said: “The combination of a high human death rate, no cure and no human vaccine means that Hendra virus is a frightening disease. An outbreak of Hendra virus on a property cannot only impact people’s health, but also be financially, professionally, emotionally and psychologically damaging.

The first survey with horse owners and horse care providers has now been completed. This focused on Hendra virus risk awareness, perceptions and knowledge, with large sections dedicated to practices employed on properties to limit the risk from the virus  and attitudes to vaccination.

Another four surveys with horse owners and horse care providers will be conducted over the next two years.

To participate in the research project or find out more information visit

A brief summary of some preliminary findings is available in the first HHALTER Project Research Newsletter.

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