New Top End Warning For Murray Valley encephalitis

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Top End residents and visitors are being urged to protect themselves against mosquitoes after chickens in the sentinel detection flock in the Katherine region indicated widespread Murray Valley encephalitis and Kunjin virus activity.

The chickens in the sentinel detection flock are tested in liaison with the Berrimah Veterinary Laboratory.

This finding, combined with similar recent Murray Valley encephalitis activity in sentinel chickens in northern WA, highlights the presence of the viruses and the consequent need for all proper precautions to be taken. 

"The main mosquitoes that transmit Murray Valley encephalitis are the common banded mosquito and the floodwater mosquito," Centre for Disease Control Director, Dr Vicki Krause said.

"The common banded and the floodwater mosquitoes mainly breed in grassy depressions and sewage ponds. To avoid mosquito borne disease, residents are urged to use personal protection, and to avoid outdoor exposure around flooded areas - especially after sundown between now and the end of July."

Dr Krause stressed the seriousness of Murray Valley encephalitis, saying that symptoms can include severe headache, high fever, drowsiness, tremor, seizures (especially in young children), and in some cases the disease progresses to delirium, coma, permanent brain damage or death.

"In young children, fever might be an early sign. If the child also has drowsiness, floppiness, poor feeding or general distress, parents should consult a doctor."

To minimize mosquito problems in your area you should:

  • ensure children are adequately protected against mosquito bites,
  • avoid outdoor exposure around dusk, and at night, near rivers and areas of dense vegetation as well as other areas of high mosquito activity;
  • consider bifenthrin insecticide barrier treatments by pest control companies for use around residential grounds;
  • use mosquito proof accommodation and camping facilities at night;
  • wear protective light coloured clothing with long sleeves, long trousers, and ankle protection with socks, between dusk and dawn in areas where mosquito bites are likely;
  • use a protective repellent containing 20% DEET or Picaridin and other mosquito protection devices as a supplement to protective clothing when out doors at night in areas of mosquito activity.

Media Contact: Bridget Wild - 89 992 818 or 0401 116 203