Mosquito borne diseases warning

NT Health has issued a warning about mosquito borne diseases in the Top End following a fatal case of a mosquito–borne encephalitis presentation on the Tiwi Islands.

While the specific mosquito–borne virus responsible remains unknown at this time, it is considered to most likely be Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE) virus or Kunjin virus.

MVE is a rare disease, but can be fatal. The symptoms can include severe headache, high fever, drowsiness, tremor, seizures (especially in young children), and in some cases the disease can progress to delirium, coma, permanent brain damage or death. Kunjin virus, like NVE, is rare but endemic in tropical parts of Australia, like the Top End.

People most at risk include campers, infants and young children residing near mosquito-breeding areas.

People in remote Top End communities and anyone visiting parks and recreation areas where mosquitoes may be active are also at greater risk of contracting a mosquito-borne disease.

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

  • Use a protective repellent containing 20 per cent DEET or Picaridin;
  • Wear light-coloured protective clothing (long sleeves, trousers, socks) when outdoors in mosquito prone areas;
  • Avoid outdoor exposure around dusk and at night near areas of dense vegetation or 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; and
  • Ensure children are adequately protected against mosquitoes.

Quotes attributable to an NT Health Spokesperson:

“There has been a case of encephalitis from Wurrumiyanga, where the patient has likely acquired the infection in early to mid-February and has sadly since passed away.

“There have been no further cases at this stage, but residents and travellers around the Top End and particularly on the Tiwi Islands should remain vigilant and take active steps to prevent mosquito bites.

“Mosquito numbers are currently relatively low, as is the risk of further infection.

“Historically, the coming weeks have proven to be a time frame of concern for transmission of mosquito- borne diseases that can cause severe disease, including encephalitis, in the NT.

“We are heading into a period with a high frequency of long-weekends, and better weather, which sees increased outdoor activities and camping trips where vigilance is essential.”

Contact: Russel Guse

Phone: 0436 933 810

Last updated: 22 March 2021

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