More Victorians are now eligible to be vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV), with further expansions to the eligibility criteria.
While there are currently no confirmed cases of JEV in Victoria, flooding and heavy rainfall across the state can mean greater risk of infections spread by mosquitoes this season.
Vaccination against JEV is now available for anyone aged two months or older who:
- lives, or routinely works, in a high-risk area and spends significant time outdoors (four hours per day), for unavoidable work, recreational, educational or other essential activities, or
- is living in temporary or flood-damaged accommodation that places them at an increased risk of exposure to mosquitoes, or
- is engaged in the prolonged clean-up of stagnant waters following floods.
As there is limited supply of the vaccine internationally, eligibility criteria and free options for JEV vaccination are being managed carefully to ensure those most at risk have access. We will continue to work with the Commonwealth and other states to make the best use of available vaccines, and to obtain more vaccines when available.
Wangaratta, Strathbogie and Benalla have been added to the local government areas where the vaccine is available to those eligible. The vaccine is free for people who meet these criteria and is available from local councils and local public health units, including some COVID-19 vaccination hubs. Select GPs and community pharmacies can also provide the vaccine itself for free, but may charge a fee for the administration.
“While getting vaccinated is important, everyone should focus on preventing being bitten by mosquitoes. This includes wearing long, loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing, using insect repellents, clearing stagnant water around your home, and avoiding areas with lots of mosquitoes, especially at dusk and dawn,” Victoria’s Deputy Chief Health Officer Associate Professor Deborah Friedman said.
“We know mosquitoes don’t breed in initial flood waters, but that the risk increases as these waters recede and leave behind pools of stagnant water.”
People living in areas experiencing mosquito activity should undertake these protective measures now and over the coming months to protect themselves against not just JEV, but other mosquito-borne diseases for which no vaccine is available – including Ross River virus, Barmah Forest virus and Murray Valley encephalitis.
Most people who develop JEV infection will have no symptoms, but 1 per cent can develop serious illness. JEV can cause a rare, potentially severe infection of the brain.
Earlier in 2022, Victoria recorded 13 cases of JEV infection, the most recent of which was in March. This was the first time locally acquired JEV cases had been seen in Victoria, as it normally occurs in southern and eastern Asia, Papua New Guinea, and the Torres Strait.
“While the risk remains low, and we have not detected any Japanese encephalitis in mosquitoes or animals as part of our surveillance activities so far this season, this increased access means more people can now protect themselves,” Associate Professor Friedman added.
Reviewed 04 November 2022