Volunteers needed for JEV research

NSW Health is encouraging members of the Corowa community to volunteer to provide a blood sample and complete a short survey as part of an effort to identify historic infections of the Japanese Encephalitis virus (JEV).

Sampling will be undertaken in Corowa this week at The Barkman Centre (rear of Corowa Hospital):

•Wednesday 27 June- 10.00am – 7.00pm

•Thursday 28 June- 7.00am – 2.30pm

NSW Health Director of Zoonoses at Health Protection NSW Health, Keira Glasgow, said the blood sample survey, taking place in specific parts of in or around Corowa, Temora and Griffith in Murrumbidgee Local Health District, and Balranald and Dubbo in Western NSW, could provide valuable information on how many people may have been exposed to JEV in earlier, warmer months.

All participants will receive the results of their blood test. To be eligible you must have lived in or near Corowa between January 1, 2022 – March 31, 2022.

All ages are eligible to participate, with those under the age of 16 required to be accompanied by a parent or carer who will need to provide consent.

JEV is a serious disease, and NSW Health seeking the communities support in understanding how it got here and can be better prevented.

JEV was detected in NSW for the first time in late February.

Thirteen people have been diagnosed with JEV since February, and two of them have died. All were estimated to have acquired the illness between mid-January and the end of February.

“Now that the weather is cooler, mosquito activity has declined and there is currently little risk of active transmission of JEV, but we still do not know why the disease came to Australia this year during our warmer, wetter conditions,” Ms Glasgow said.

“Because less than one per cent of people infected with JEV experience symptoms, it is likely people were infected in these areas without even knowing it.

“That’s why we will be asking people who lived in specific areas of regional NSW earlier this year to help by providing blood at one of the five survey sites that will advertised locally over the coming weeks.

“The results of the blood testing will help us understand JEV infection rates, give us a clue on how long ago the virus was introduced into New South Wales, how many people were infected, and the behaviours or activities associated with infection.”

Ms Glasgow said it was important only people who lived in the five towns between January and March 2022 participate, to ensure that the results are useful as possible.

JEV activity may increase again as the weather warms in spring and summer, and these samples will be very useful in helping us prepare NSW Health is working with the NSW Department of Primary Industry, the Commonwealth Department of Health and other stakeholders to plan for such an increase.

In March and April, NSW Health added 54 new JEV specific mosquito monitoring sites across Western, Southern and Northern NSW. Mosquito surveillance ended in the second week of May 2022, once mosquito numbers had fallen. Expanded mosquito monitoring will recommence in spring.

For the latest information on confirmed cases of JEV and advice on how to protect yourself from mosquito-borne diseases visit the NSW Health website.

Further results from the mosquito trapping program are available on the Health Protection NSW website.