Kunjin virus alert

Published

People in the Top End are being warned to protect themselves against the mosquito-borne disease, Kunjin virus.

The virus can cause severe headache, high fever, drowsiness, tremor and seizures.

Regular surveillance work by staff from Top End Health Service and Primary Industry and Resources has detected signs of the virus in the Darwin and East Arnhem regions.

Director of Medical Entomology, Nina Kurucz has warned people to take precautions against mosquito bites, particularly if they are outside after sundown.

“The high risk period for Kunjin virus is from February to the end of June,” Ms Kurucz said.

“Mosquito numbers are expected to increase following Wet Season rains, especially within a few kilometres of breeding sites like grassy depressions filled with water, seasonal lagoons and wetlands.”

Ms Kurucz said at this time of year Top End mosquitoes could transmit Kunjin virus and also the potentially deadly, Murray Valley encephalitis virus (MVEV).

While the current surveillance program has yet to detect MVE this Wet Season, it does occur in the Top End at this time of year.

“To avoid the risk of contracting mosquito-borne disease of any kind, wear protective clothing and use personal mosquito protection. If possible, try not to be outdoors after sunset, particularly close to wetlands or places where mosquitoes are active, Ms Kurucz said.

To minimize the chance of being bitten by mosquitoes, people should:

  • use a protective repellent containing 20 per cent DEET or Picaridin or 30 per cent PMD (extract of lemon eucalyptus) as a supplement to protective clothing when outdoors in mosquito prone areas.
  • wear light-coloured clothing with long sleeves, long trousers and socks, between dusk and dawn in areas where mosquito bites are likely
  • avoid outdoor exposure around dusk, at night and at sunrise near areas of dense vegetation and other areas of high mosquito activity
  • use mosquito-proof accommodation and camping facilities at night
  • use mosquito coils, mosquito lanterns and barrier sprays containing bifenthrin in patio and outdoor areas near houses
  • ·ensure infants and children are adequately protected against mosquitoes.

Media contact: Russel Guse 0436 933 810

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