26 September 2023

Health warns public to avoid mosquito bites

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The Department of Health is urging Kimberley residents and travellers to protect themselves against mosquito bites, following the first Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE) detection in the region this year.

The MVE virus was found in sentinel chicken flocks in the East Kimberley during the wet season.

Sentinel chickens are used to monitor and provide an early warning system for mosquito-borne virus activity.

Managing Scientist – Biological Hazards at the Department, Andrew Jardine said that Murray Valley encephalitis virus was transmitted only by mosquitoes.

“While the risk of being infected and becoming unwell is low, the illness caused by the virus can be severe and even fatal,” Dr Jardine said.

“The only effective protection against infection is to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites.”

He said MVE virus activity occurred in the Kimberley region in most years following wet-season rainfall and could also occur in the Pilbara region in some years. This year, significant mosquito activity had also been detected in other States and Territories.

While there have been no human cases of MVE reported in WA in 2023. However, the Northern Territory and Victoria recently issued public health alerts due to deaths in those jurisdictions.

Initial symptoms of MVE include fever, drowsiness, headache, stiff neck, nausea and dizziness.

“People experiencing these symptoms should seek medical advice as soon as possible,” Dr Jardine said.

“In severe cases, people may experience seizures, lapse into a coma, be left with permanent brain damage or die.”

More information about mosquito prevention can be accessed at this PS News link.

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