Kunjin virus warning for Top End

Residents and visitors in the Top End are being urged to take precautions to protect themselves against mosquitoes, with potential Kunjin virus activity detected in the East Arnhem and Darwin regions.

Director of Medical Entomology, Nina Kurucz explained that preliminary results from the flavivirus surveillance program indicate Kunjin virus activity in the Top End, with the virus transmitted by mosquitoes. Ms Kurucz urged people to take precautions against mosquito bites during outdoor activities, especially between sundown and sunrise.

Kunjin virus activity is monitored by a combined program between the Department of Primary Industry and Resources and the Department of Health, with possible virus activity detected in sentinel chickens located in Nhulunbuy and the rural Darwin area.

The high risk period for Kunjin virus is from February to the end of July, and while current mosquito numbers are relatively low, are expected to increase. The mosquitoes can occur in pest numbers within a few kilometres of their breeding sites, such as grassy depressions filled with water, seasonal lagoons and wetlands.

Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE) virus is also transmitted by mosquitoes and is known historically to be in the Top End at this time of year. The MVE virus causes a disease very similar to and even more serious than Kunjin disease and is one to be avoided.

“To avoid mosquito borne disease, use personal mosquito protection and avoid being outdoors in or close to wetland areas or places where mosquitoes are active, especially after sunset,” Ms Kurucz said.

Symptoms of Kunjin virus and also MVE virus disease can include severe headache, high fever, drowsiness, tremor and seizures (especially in young children), with MVE being potentially fatal.

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

  • use a protective repellent containing 20% DEET or picaridin 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 and at night 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 children are adequately protected against mosquitoes.

Media Contact: Tess Nekrasov  0427 596 954

Last updated: 04 March 2019