Widespread Kunjin virus activity in Top End

The Department of Health advises Top End residents and visitors to take precautions to protect themselves against mosquitoes, with widespread Kunjin virus activity detected in the Darwin region.

Director of Medical Entomology, Nina Kurucz said results from flavivirus surveillance, carried out by the Department of Health in liaison with the Department of Primary Industry and Resources, showed widespread Kunjin virus activity in the greater Darwin region, with the virus also detected in the East Arnhem region.

The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes, and Ms Kurucz urged people to take precautions against mosquito bites during outdoor activities, especially between sundown and sunrise.

The high risk period for Kunjin virus is from February to the end of July, and mosquito numbers are expected to increase following this week’s rain, with numbers in rural areas already at higher levels 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. This virus 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 per cent 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: 0427 596 954

Last updated: 29 March 2019