Mystery virus kills horses and humans in Australia

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A horse in Queensland, Australia had to be put down this week after it was confirmed that he was suffering from the Hendra virus. He is the the 41st horse to die from the illness since it was discovered in September 1994.

The disease is believed to be spread by fruit bats. The bats remain unharmed by the virus, but infected horses and humans usually die. The human deaths have all been of vets or stablehands caring for the infected horses. People cannot catch the disease directly from bats, only when it has been transmitted to horses first.

The disease also affected humans. Four people have died of the virus symptoms in humans have included a flu-like illness, which can progress to pneumonia; headache, high fever, and drowsiness, which can progress to convulsions or coma.

The Hendra virus has not been identified outside of Australia.

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