Rise in suspected Japanese encephalitis cases
People living, working or visiting towns along the Murray River are being reminded to protect themselves from mosquitoes following a rise in suspected Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) cases.
Since last week, there have been eight suspected human cases of JEV infection in Victoria, including six people who have been hospitalised.
This includes two children under 10 years old and six adults aged between 35 to 75 years old. All cases are awaiting confirmation at this time and several remain in hospital. One is a resident of New South Wales.
Deputy Chief Health Officer, Associate Professor Deborah Friedman said the eight people all had exposure to mosquitos before they became unwell.
“It’s really important for people to protect themselves from mosquito bites, especially anyone who lives, works or plans to visit areas in northern Victoria where mosquitoes are prevalent, especially if they are camping.
“There are some really simple steps people can take, including covering up exposed skin, wearing loose fitting clothing, using repellent and sleeping under mosquito nets if you’re outdoors.”
JEV is a mosquito-borne virus that can cause encephalitis in approximately one per cent of cases who become infected.
Most people who contract JEV will have no or very mild symptoms and fully recover but anyone who develops a sudden onset of fever, headache, vomiting as well as seizures or disorientation should see urgent medical attention.
Children aged under five years old and older people who are infected with JEV are at a higher risk of developing more severe illness, such as encephalitis.
Evidence of JEV has been discovered in pigs in northern parts of Victoria, as well as New South Wales and Southern Queensland within the past month, with human cases now emerging.
People should take steps to limit their exposure to mosquitoes and protect themselves by:
- wearing long, loose fitting clothes outdoors
- using effective mosquito repellents containing picaridin or DEET on all exposed skin
- trying to limit outdoor activity if lots of mosquitoes are about
- using ‘knockdown’ fly sprays and plug-in repellent devices indoors
- sleeping under mosquito nets treated with insecticides if you don’t have flywire screens on windows on your home or are sleeping in an untreated tent or out in the open
- using mosquito coils, which can be effective in small outdoor areas where you gather to sit or eat.
Reviewed 04 March 2022