A HORSE has died from the bat-borne Hendra virus near Mackay, in Queensland's first outbreak for the year.
Biosecurity Queensland is quarantining a property near Mackay after a dead horse tested positive to Hendra last night.
Queensland Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Rick Symons said there were other horses on the property that will undergo blood tests for the virus.
Public health officers from Townsville were contacting all people who were exposed to the sick horse and will identify if any tests or treatment is required.
Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said the virus was not transmitted easily as it required close contact with body fluids of the sick horse.
"We stand ready to provide any assistance, counselling, information, testing or treatment that may be required," Dr Young says.
Dr Symons said the owner of the horse discovered it was unsteady on its feet on Sunday, a classic sign of the Hendra virus.
The 18-year-old stock horse died that night and tests confirmed last night that it had the Hendra virus, he said.
Three other horses and several dogs on the property are under quarantine.
Dr Symons said typically Hendra outbreaks occurred between June and August but he's not surprised to see such an early case.
"We had a case around this time last year in Townsville," he said.
"It does occur in the dry seasons but it predominantly occurs in the cooler months which may have something to do with the virus surviving better in cooler weather."
He recommended horse owners to have their horses inoculated with the new Hendra vaccine.