New research has validated the belief that one can reduce the risk of infection from Hendra virus by keeping horses away from flowering or fruiting trees that are found to attract flying foxes (a fruit bat from Australia that transmits the virus to horses, which can cause diseases). The levels and distribution of flying foxes excrement have been studied as this could be a basis for the risk of the infection. Studies from Biosecurity Queensland, Australia have discovered that flying fox wastes, including feces, urine, and fruit debris fall within the vicinity of the fruit tree from which they are feeding. Thus, it is pretty clear that horses on turnout should be in an open pasture or be kept away from flowering or fruiting trees.
According to Hume Field, BVSc, MSc, PhD, MACVS, a Biosecurity Queensland, Australia researcher, in one study, a plastic sheet has been laid under a large fruiting tree to capture flying fox excretions. In another study, it involved placing the plastic sheets on a nearby non-fruiting/non-flowering tree, 50 meters away from the fruiting tree. This is to establish how far food debris and excreta from flying foxes would be distributed away from the fruiting trees. There is about less than 1% of spats and excretions found under the nearby non-flowering and non-fruiting tree.
Hendra virus can produce various clinical signs of illness in horses, and these may include respiratory disorders, high body temperature, increased heart rate, and nasal discharge with frothy nature. However, authorities want the public to know that there are no specific signs produced by the hendra infection.
Horse owners are advised to fencing trees that attract flying foxes to reduce the risk of the viral infection. It also helps to cover up water and food containers, and avoid feeding food to horses, such as fruits and vegetables, that could also attract flying foxes.