Scary news from Down Under, a new disease seems to be erupting, killing humans and livestock. Cause is increased heat and flooding, making a perfect incubator for the virus.
“It started with Vic Rail’s horses, in September 1994. First one, then another, they died horrible deaths, 13 horses in all over the span of just two weeks, frothing from their noses and mouths, thrashing in agonizing pain. Then Rail died too.
Weeks later Australian officials isolated a newly discovered virus they ultimately named Hendra, after the Brisbane suburb where Rail and his horses died. For 17 years, Hendra virus smoldered in its host population of fruit bats killing nearly 50 horses and claiming three more human lives.
Then in May, something happened.
Flying Fox, a type of bat, in Australia passed deadly virus to humans
It was as if Hendra virus awoke from a slumber and roared fully into life. There have been more outbreaks of Hendra in 2011 — 18 at last count — than in the 16 previous years…
“The interesting change was the big floods in January,” said Raina Plowright, a disease ecologist at the Pennsylvania State University’s Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics. “Floods are expected more frequently with climate change — so, if they are linked, climate change may increase disease.”
Hendra virus is just one of a number of newly emerged zoonotic diseases, so called because they have their origins in animals but somehow make the leap to humans, and in doing so, wreak enormous havoc. While zoonotic diseases may sound exotic, one of the most devastating is also one of the most familiar: AIDS, which made the jump from primates to humans sometime at the beginning of the 20th century, and now kills an estimated 2.7 million people a year. Hendra, far newer but fearsomely lethal, has claimed the lives of four of the seven people infected.”