Japanese Encephalitis virus detected

mosquito on human skin at sunset

Health authorities in NSW and Victoria are urging locals to protect themselves against mosquito bites following the detection of Japanese Encephalitis (JE) virus in pig farms and cases of the virus in humans.

In NSW, the Department of Primary Industries confirmed the virus had been detected at six Riverina pig farms at Corowa, Grong Grong, and Stockinbingal. It has also been detected in Victoria as close as Wangaratta and Campaspe local government areas indicating the virus is likely circulating in the mosquito population.

A Corowa resident has also been confirmed to have the virus and is currently in a critical condition in Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital.

In Victoria evidence of the JE has been found in pigs in Echuca and Wangaratta. Three Victorians are in hospital suffering with the virus.

A further four Victorians have since contracted the virus, believed to be the first cases reported in Australia’s south.

“This is the first time the virus has been detected in southern Australia, and biosecurity authorities are working with their human health departments to understand the implications and risks of human exposure,” Australian Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Mark Schipp said.

Federal, state and territory authorities are meeting regularly to “work through the next steps of this situation”.

JE is a mosquito borne disease that may affect animals, including pigs, and humans. The virus is spread by mosquito bites.

Less than one per cent of people infected with JE experience symptoms, which typically include fever, joint pain, and rash.  Occasionally, JE can cause a severe neurological illness with headache, convulsions and reduced consciousness.

Australia’s Acting Chief Medical Officer Sonya Bennett said two vaccinations were available for protection against JEV in Australia.

Older people and those aged under five who are infected have a higher risk of developing a serious illness.

“Encephalitis is the most serious clinical consequence of JEV infection. Illness usually begins with symptoms such as sudden onset of fever, headache and vomiting,” she said.

Dr Bennett said anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek urgent medical attention.

Simple actions to avoid mosquito bites include:

Cover up as much as possible with light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing and covered footwear when outside.

Use an effective insect repellent on exposed skin and reapply within a few hours. The best mosquito repellents contain Diethyl Toluamide (DEET), Picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus.

Use insecticide sprays, vapour dispensing units (indoors) and mosquito coils (outdoors) to clear rooms or repel mosquitoes from an area.

Cover all windows, doors, vents and other entrances with insect screens.

Remove any water-holding containers outside the house where mosquitoes could breed.

Anyone who works with pigs or horses, even if they’re backyard pets, is urged to keep an eye out and report any possible signs of the disease.

Stock owners who suspect JE in pigs or other livestock must report it to the 24-hour Emergency Animal Disease Hotline on 1800 675 888.

More information on JE is available from: