26 September 2023

State on alert for nasty mozzie virus

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South Australians are being warned to avoid exposure to mosquitoes following the first confirmed locally acquired detection of Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV).

Executive Director of Health Protection and Licensing Services at the Department for Health and Wellbeing, Chris Lease, said it was now more important than ever to take extra precautions against mosquitoes and continue to ‘fight the bite’.

Dr Lease said that following a recent investigation of 10 people with acute encephalitis identified in the past month, four of the cases were confirmed as having JEV with three acquiring infections locally.

“All 10 people under investigation required hospitalisation, with seven people currently still in hospital and one person sadly passing away,” he said.

“With Easter right around the corner it’s an incredibly timely reminder to take precautions against mosquito bites.”

Dr Lease said people planning activities around the River Murray were warned to be especially vigilant, particularly between dusk and dawn when mosquitos were most active.

He said a small proportion of people infected with JEV would develop encephalitis, which could be fatal or cause long-term neurological damage.

Dr Lease said symptoms of encephalitis may include confusion, headaches, neck stiffness, tremors, drowsiness and seizures.

“Families with young children should be especially mindful of mosquito bites, as children under five years of age have a higher risk of developing encephalitis if infected with JEV,” he said.

Dr Lease said personal and household protective measures remained the first line of defence against JEV and other mosquito-borne diseases such as Ross River.

He said people should apply an insect repellent containing DEET or picaridin, cover up with long, loose-fitting and light-coloured clothing, and use mosquito coils and aerosol knockdown or surface insect sprays.

Further information on how to Fight the Bite can be accessed at this PS News link.

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