The Australian government has confirmed that cases of a rare Japanese Encephalitis virus (JEV) have been detected in southern regional Queensland.
Queensland Health issued an alert stating that a person has been infected with JEV and is now being treated in a Brisbane Hospital after recently travelling through regional Queensland. The virus is spread through the bite of an infected mosquito to both people and animals with the virus generally occurring in pigs and animals.
Symptoms of JEV are usually not present or very mild but more serious infections can lead to the inflammation of the brain, vomiting, fever and various other severities. Health experts recommend that people take extra precautions in protecting themselves from mosquitos especially after recent flooding.
“We encourage Queenslanders to take necessary steps to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes, especially given the recent flooding event which may lead to an increase in mosquito numbers in coming weeks,” they said.
“Measures to prevent mosquito bites include regularly applying insect repellent containing Diethyl Toluamide (DEET), Picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus; wearing loose, light-coloured clothing to cover up arms, legs and feet; and using other insecticide-based mosquito control devices where possible when outside.”
QIMR Berghofer’s Mosquito Control Laboratory Lead Associate Professor Greg Devine added to the warning by telling the Brisbane Times that similar situations have happened before.
“There is precedent — in the past a similar virus, Murray Valley encephalitis, saw widespread outbreaks in 1974 and 2011,” he said.
“Obviously there were big floods in those years, but it’s not the floods themselves, the floods and the virus are both symptoms of the fact that those years saw months of very wet conditions, which is conducive to mosquitoes spreading the virus.”
Cases of JEV were originally discovered at a piggery in Queensland last week with new cases having been found in New South Wales, South Australia, and Victoria. Four people were confirmed to have the virus in Victoria with three still in hospital.
Government authorities are monitoring the situation closely and are discussing the next steps of the situation. Currently there are two vaccinations available to aid in the protection against JEV with young and elderly people particularly at risk of catching the virus.