27 September 2023

Vaccine to bite back on mozzie virus

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People and animals most at risk of the Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) are to be given access to vaccines to protect them during the current outbreak.

Announced by the Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, the move follows the mosquito-borne virus being declared a Communicable Disease Incident of National Significance (CDINS) by Australia’s Acting Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Professor Paul Kelly.

“Program initiatives aim to prevent exposure to the disease through vaccination and mosquito management systems, to protect people and animals most at risk during the current outbreak,” Mr Hunt said.

“A multiportfolio response will implement control and public health measures,” he said.

Mr Hunt said key elements of the control package included the purchase of additional JEV vaccines; mosquito surveillance and control activities; public health communication; surveillance activities to map areas with higher risk of a JEV outbreak; and support for State and Territory agriculture departments.

“The Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA), in consultation with the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI), has prioritised people for vaccination with direct exposure or close-proximity to pigs and mosquitos, and those with high-level occupational exposures in the risk areas,” he said.

“There are other simple steps we can all take to prevent contact with infected mosquitos, such as using repellent containing picaridin or DEET on all exposed skin, wearing loose fitting clothing when outside, and ensuring that accommodation is properly fitted with mosquito nettings or screens.”

The Minister said there were two human JEV vaccines available on the Australian market, Imojev (Sanofi-Aventis Australia) and JEspect (Seqirus).

He said State and Territory Public Health units were co-ordinating and implementing the priority vaccination program, with initial vaccinations already underway.

Minister for Agriculture and Northern Australia, David Littleproud said mosquito trapping and control was being conducted at all infected piggeries, with movement restrictions in place for properties in Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia.

Further information on JEV’s potential impact on human health can be accessed on the Department of Health’s website at this PS News link.

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