[Source: PLoS ONE, full page: (LINK). Abstract, edited.]

Open Access / Peer-Reviewed

Research Article

Hendra Virus and Horse Owners ? Risk Perception and Management

Nina Kung, Amanda McLaughlin, Melanie Taylor, Barbara Moloney, Therese Wright, Hume Field

Published: Nov 15, 2013 - DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0080897


Hendra virus is a highly pathogenic novel paramyxovirus causing sporadic fatal infection in horses and humans in Australia. Species of fruit-bats (genus Pteropus), commonly known as flying-foxes, are the natural host of the virus. We undertook a survey of horse owners in the states of Queensland and New South Wales, Australia to assess the level of adoption of recommended risk management strategies and to identify impediments to adoption. Survey questionnaires were completed by 1431 respondents from the target states, and from a spectrum of industry sectors. Hendra virus knowledge varied with sector, but was generally limited, with only 13% of respondents rating their level of knowledge as high or very high. The majority of respondents (63%) had seen their state?s Hendra virus information for horse owners, and a similar proportion found the information useful. Fifty-six percent of respondents thought it moderately, very or extremely likely that a Hendra virus case could occur in their area, yet only 37% said they would consider Hendra virus if their horse was sick. Only 13% of respondents stabled their horses overnight, although another 24% said it would be easy or very easy to do so, but hadn?t done so. Only 13% and 15% of respondents respectively had horse feed bins and water points under solid cover. Responses varied significantly with state, likely reflecting different Hendra virus history. The survey identified inconsistent awareness and/or adoption of available knowledge, confusion in relation to Hendra virus risk perception, with both over-and under-estimation of true risk, and lag in the uptake of recommended risk minimisation strategies, even when these were readily implementable. However, we also identified frustration and potential alienation by horse owners who found the recommended strategies impractical, onerous and prohibitively expensive. The insights gained from this survey have broader application to other complex risk-management scenarios.

Citation: Kung N, McLaughlin A, Taylor M, Moloney B, Wright T, et al. (2013) Hendra Virus and Horse Owners ? Risk Perception and Management. PLoS ONE 8(11): e80897. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0080897

Editor: Leo L. M. Poon, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Received: May 7, 2013; Accepted: October 17, 2013; Published: November 15, 2013

Copyright: ? 2013 Kung et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Funding: Financial support was provided by the Queensland State Government through the Queensland Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.