26 September 2023

Health calls for care as mozzies carry viruses

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The people of Victoria are being urged to protect themselves from mosquitos this year with the Department of Health issuing a warning following an increased risk of mosquito-borne disease.

Deputy Chief Health Officer (Communicable Disease), Dr Deborah Friedman said Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE) virus had been detected in mosquitoes at locations across northern Victoria last week.

“These results demonstrate that MVE virus is increasing in the mosquito population and indicates a current and active risk to people in these areas,” Dr Friedman said.

“This marks the first detection of the virus in Victoria in over 10 years through surveillance programs,” she said.

“MVE virus is endemic to northern Australia and the virus was previously detected in Victoria in 2011 from animal surveillance along the Murray River.

“The last human cases of MVE virus infection in Victoria were reported in 1974 following significant flooding.”

Dr Friedman said MVE virus could cause a rare but potentially serious infection of the central nervous system which was spread to humans by infected mosquitoes.

She said there was no effective treatment or vaccine for MVE.

“The best prevention is to protect against mosquito bites,” the Deputy Chief Health Officer said.

“The risk of mosquito-borne diseases, such as MVE, Japanese encephalitis, Kunjin/West Nile virus, and Ross River and Barmah Forest virus infections, is high due to recent weather conditions and elevated mosquito numbers across Victoria.”

Dr Freidman said symptoms may include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting and muscle aches, although most infected people do not have symptoms.

She said that in serious cases, people could develop meningitis or encephalitis.

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