CORONAVIRUS may be the main concern for many, but Hunter horse owners have been warned not to let their guard down to a more familiar viral threat.
Hunter Local Land Services has warned that winter may deliver "a period of heightened risk" across the region for the bat-borne hendra virus to return.
"The case in the Upper Hunter last year suggests that we must not become complacent and that Hendra virus infections can occur in our area," the authority said in a statement.
District veterinarian Kristi Arnot said an expert group studying how climate and the virus interact has called for additional caution.
"There were similar climatic and ecological conditions leading up to winter 2011 and winter 2017, which saw the largest numbers of equine cases, and the prediction is for similar climatic conditions this year," Dr Arnot said.
"June through to October is considered a high-risk time for Hendra infection in horses, because flying foxes are under pressure to find food in winter."
The virus can be deadly to both humans and horses. It is carried by unaffected flying foxes and passed to horses via ingestion of the flying fox's bodily fluid.
This most commonly occurs from trees, contaminating pasture or troughs.
It can then jump between horses and from horses to humans through the air, blood and bodily fluids.
It has resulted in four human deaths and 104 horse deaths since it was identified in 1994.
Infected horses can require euthanasia, sometimes before test results can return, on welfare grounds.
"To protect both your horses and yourself, it is recommended to vaccinate your horse, as there is no human vaccine," Dr Arnot said.
"Your decision whether or not to vaccinate your horse should be made in consultation with your veterinarian.," said Kristi."This is an important discussion to have with your private veterinary practitioner so that they can safely attend and treat your horse in times of illness."