Residents and visitors in the Murray Valley as well as Bendigo are being warned to protect themselves against mosquitoes following new detections of Murray Valley encephalitis virus (MVEv).
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Dr John Carnie said the disease has been detected in sentinel chickens at Cobram, Rutherglen, Toolamba and Bendigo.
“These latest detections follow positive results in chickens in similar areas a month ago, including Barmah, Kerang and Tooleybuc just across the border in New South Wales near Swan Hill. Evidence of the virus is again present in these areas.
“However, evidence of the presence of the virus has also been found further south at Toolamba and Bendigo as well as east at Cobram and Rutherglen,” Dr Carnie said.
“There have still been no confirmed cases of MVEv in humans.
“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.”
Flocks of chickens are 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 some other rural areas of Victoria.
Dr Carnie said simple precautions can help protect against mosquitoes.
“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 by wearing long, loose-fitting clothing and use insect repellents containing picaridin or DEET as an active ingredient on exposed skin areas when camping, in their gardens or at barbecues.
“Householders should ensure that insect screens fitted to doors and windows are in good condition.
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 24 March 2011