26 September 2023

SA joins national Encephalitis virus study

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The National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) has invited South Australians to join a national study to determine how many people have been exposed to the Japanese Encephalitis Virus (JEV).

The study is part of a national human JEV ‘Serosurveillance’ Program, also taking place in Victoria, New South Wales and Central Queensland.

According to SA Health, a ‘serosurvey’ is a survey of blood samples collected from the population to measure immunity due to past infection or vaccination.

SA Health said Japanese Encephalitis was a rare mosquito-borne disease first detected in SA in early 2022.

“Most people infected with JEV will not experience symptoms, however, a small proportion (around 1 in 250) will develop encephalitis or inflammation of the brain, which can be fatal or cause long-term neurological damage,” SA Health said

Chief Public Health Officer with SA Health, Nicola Spurrier said that SA had detected nine cases of JEV, and this study would help determine the true extent of JEV in the community.

“As most people infected with the Japanese Encephalitis Virus will show no or only minor symptoms, this study will help us to understand how many people have actually been exposed to the virus in high-risk areas of our state”, Professor Spurrier said.

“It will allow us to better understand the spread of the virus in South Australia, as well as the different risk factors, so we can ensure that the vaccine is made available to those at most risk of exposure,” she said.

The Riverland Academy of Clinical Excellence (RACE) and SA Pathology is conducting the serosurvey, deploying their operations at selected collection sites in Murray Bridge, Mannum, Tailem Bend, Berri, Loxton, Barmera, Waikerie, and Renmark.

According to RACE and SA Pathology, participants of the ‘serosurvey’ will be asked to donate a small amount of blood and complete a short questionnaire.

The study is expected to run until 30 June 2023, with the results to inform targeted public health interventions.

More information on the JEV vaccine rollout can be accessed at this PS News link.

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