Department of Health

Victorians warned to seek pre-travel health advice

Published by Department of Health & Human Services

Travellers should seek medical advice before leaving Australia following the diagnosis of a 45-year-old Melbourne man with the rare viral condition Japanese encephalitis after visiting Bali.

This is the first notified case of the infection in Victoria. 

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Dr Rosemary Lester, said the diagnosis of Japanese encephalitis, which is spread by mosquitoes, reinforces the need for travellers to seek advice about appropriate vaccinations whenever they travel overseas.

“In addition to obtaining pre-travel health advice, travellers should also take all measures to protect themselves, especially in areas where diseases are known to be carried by mosquitoes.

“Travellers who are ill on their return from overseas, should have their health assessed as a matter of urgency,” Dr Lester said.

Dr Lester said Japanese encephalitis is the leading cause of viral encephalitis in Asia. It is fatal in 20 to 30 per cent of cases and causes long-term neurological complications in up to 50 per cent of cases.

Japanese encephalitis is not a communicable disease – it is not passed from person to person.\

Since the beginning of reliable national reporting systems in 2001 there have only been nine confirmed cases of Japanese encephalitis notified in Australia.

In areas overseas where mosquitoes are active, travellers should use a suitable insect repellent containing picaridin or DEET as an active ingredient on exposed skin areas.

Dr Lester said the best way for travellers to avoid contracting diseases such as Japanese encephalitis was to prevent being bitten.

“This highly unusual and unfortunate situation emphasises the importance of pre-travel health advice, taking precautions to prevent mosquito bites whilst travelling and also the need for urgent health assessment if some-one is unwell on returning,” Dr Lester said.

Reviewed 10 February 2015


Contact details

Bram Alexander Department of Health Media Unit

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