The Department of Health is warning residents and travellers in Western Australia’s Kimberley to avoid mosquito bites after detecting Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE) virus in the region.
While no human cases of MVE have been reported this year, evidence of the virus has been detected through the sentinel chicken surveillance program – run by the Department of Health, PathWest and local government to provide an early warning of virus activity.
Department of Health acting Managing Scientist of Biological and Applied Environmental Health Hazards, Dr Andrew Jardine said MVE was only carried by mosquitoes.
“As there are no specific cures or vaccines, the only effective protection is to take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes,” he said.
“While the risk of being infected and becoming unwell is low, the illness caused by the virus can be severe or even fatal.”
Initial symptoms of MVE include fever, drowsiness, headache, stiff neck, nausea and dizziness.
People experiencing these symptoms should seek medical advice quickly. In severe cases, people may experience seizures, lapse into a coma, and may be left with permanent brain damage or die.
In young children, fever might be the only early sign. Parents should see their doctor or local health service if concerned, particularly if their child experiences drowsiness, floppiness, irritability, poor feeding, or general distress.
Dr Jardine said people did not need to alter their plans to visit the Kimberley region.
“But it is important they take some simple steps to avoid mosquito bites, particularly when camping, fishing or undertaking any other activity outdoors,” he said.
To minimise the chance of being bitten by mosquitoes, people should:
- avoid outdoor exposure around dawn and early evening when mosquitoes are most active;
- wear protective (long, loose-fitting, light-coloured) clothing when outdoors;
- apply an effective personal repellent containing diethyltoluamide (DEET) or picaridin to exposed skin or clothing and always follow the label instructions;
- use mosquito coils and lanterns, and apply barrier sprays containing bifenthrin in patio and outdoor areas around houses;
- ensure insect screens are installed and in good condition on houses and caravans;
- use mosquito nets and mosquito-proof tents when camping; and
- ensure infants and children are adequately protected against mosquito bites, preferably with suitable clothing, bed nets or other forms of insect screening.
For more information about mosquito prevention visit: http://healthywa.wa.gov.au/Healthy-living/Prevent-mosquito-bites