Residents and visitors along the Murray River in northern Victoria are being warned to protect themselves against mosquitoes following the detection of Murray Valley encephalitis virus (MVEv) in the area.
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Dr John Carnie said the disease has been detected in sentinel chickens at Mildura, Robinvale, Kerang, Barmah and Tooleybuc just across the border in New South Wales near Swan Hill.
“Usual symptoms of Murray Valley encephalitis virus disease include severe headache, high fever, drowsiness, tremor and seizures.
“People experiencing such symptoms should seek urgent medical attention from their GP or their local hospital.”
No case of the disease has been detected in humans.
The last human case of MVE in Victoria was reported in 1974 when a large outbreak occurred throughout much of south eastern Australia.
Following the 1974 outbreak, flocks of chickens were placed at locations throughout the Murray River region to act as an early warning system for possible human infections with this disease.
Currently there are 13 flocks along the Murray and in rural areas of Victoria.
Dr Carnie said simple precautions can help protect against mosquitoes.
“Traditionally mosquitoes are at their most active at dawn and dusk. However, with the extensive flood waters in and around a number of towns mosquitoes are presently being seen throughout the day,” Dr Carnie said.
“To reduce the chances of being bitten, people in mosquito-prone areas should cover up or use insect repellents when camping, in their gardens or at barbecues.
“Householders should ensure that insect screens fitted to doors and windows are in good condition.
“Visitors and residents should wear long, loose-fitting clothing and use a suitable insect repellent containing picaridin or DEET as an active ingredient on exposed skin areas.”
Mosquito numbers can be reduced by getting rid of stagnant water around the home or campsites. Mosquitoes will breed in anything that can hold water including old tyres, unused fish ponds and pot plant holders.
As mosquitoes take about 10 days to breed, water containers should be emptied at least once a week.
Reviewed 22 February 2011