30 January 2023

Community encouraged to take measures following detection of Murray Valley encephalitis in the region

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
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Murray Valley encephalitis virus detected in Murrumbidgee

The Murrumbidgee community is being encouraged to take measures to protect themselves against mosquito bites following the detection of the Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE) virus in mosquitoes. Photo: Zbynek Pospisil.

The Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE) virus has been detected in mosquitoes in the Murrumbidgee.

Recent surveillance showed MVE in mosquitoes in Griffith for the second time. MVE was also detected in Mathoura, Moama and Barham.

Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD) is encouraging the community to take precautionary measures to protect themselves against mosquitoes this summer.

MLHD Director of Public Health Alison Nikitas said the community should take action to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

“With many people still enjoying their holidays and a range of outdoor activities in the summer weather, it remains very important that everyone takes the appropriate steps to protect against mosquito bites,” Ms Nikitas said.

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“There is no vaccination or specific treatment for MVE and the best way to avoid infection is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, which are most active between dusk and dawn.

“Avoiding mosquito bites will also protect against other mosquito-borne infections including Japanese encephalitis, Ross River Fever and Barmah Forest virus.”

The Director of Public Health says those who are infected with the virus that causes MVE do not present any symptoms.

“Only a small proportion of people infected with the virus will experience symptoms, which include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, and muscle aches,” Ms Nikitas said.

“Rarely, it causes severe neurological illness with headache, convulsions and reduced consciousness in some cases. Among those who get a severe infection, some may die or have lifelong neurological complications,” she said.

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Follow the below methods to protect yourself from mosquito bites.

  • Wear light, loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts, long pants and covered footwear and socks, especially around dusk and dawn
  • Apply repellent to all areas of exposed skin, using repellents that contain DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus
  • Reapply repellent regularly, particularly after swimming, be sure to always apply sunscreen first and then apply repellent
  • Use insecticide sprays, vapour dispensing units and mosquito coils to repel mosquitoes (mosquito coils should only be used outside)
  • Cover openings such as windows and doors with insect screens and check there are no gaps in them
  • Remove items that might collect water (such as old tyres, empty pots) outside your house where mosquitoes can breed
  • Improve drainage on your property so that water does not become stagnant.

MLHD said the primary hosts of the MVE virus were waterbirds such as herons and egrets.

The detection of the virus is likely related to recent rainfall and flooding.

A mosquito that bites animals (horses, kangaroos and non-water birds) that are already infected with MVE can then transmit the virus to humans. The virus cannot be transmitted between humans.

For further information and ways to protect yourself, visit the NSW Health website.

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