Tuesday, March 5, 2024

New Murray Valley encephalitis cases confirmed in Victoria

Victoria has recorded two new confirmed cases of Murray Valley encephalitis virus and one death.

One of these cases is a woman in her 60s who passed away in February. She was most likely exposed to infected mosquitoes in Greater Bendigo, but also spent time in Swan Hill during her acquisition period, the Victorian Health Department said in a statement today.

The other new case – a man in his 70s – is currently being treated in hospital. He was potentially exposed to infected mosquitoes in the Shire of Campaspe.

The two additional cases bring the number of confirmed Murray Valley encephalitis cases in Victoria to three this mosquito season, with two deaths. There has been one confirmed case of Japanese encephalitis virus in Victoria this season.

The Department of Health is investigating a number of other suspected cases of these infections.

“These additional cases show mosquito-borne viruses are continuing to circulate, especially in northern Victoria. We’ve seen cases of mosquito-borne viruses this season in people visiting the Murray Valley, so we’re taking this opportunity to remind everyone of the importance of protecting themselves from mosquito bites,” said Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Professor Brett Sutton.

“People can do this by wearing long, loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing, using insect repellents, removing stagnant water around homes or properties, and avoiding the outdoors when mosquitoes are observed, especially at dusk and dawn.”

Murray Valley encephalitis virus and West Nile (Kunjin) virus have been detected in mosquitoes in several LGAs in northern Victoria this mosquito season. Prior to this year, the last human cases of Murray Valley encephalitis were detected in Victoria in 1974.

These viruses can cause a rare but potentially serious infection of the central nervous system and are spread to humans by infected mosquitoes. Symptoms may include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting and muscle aches, although most infected people do not have symptoms. In serious cases, people can develop meningitis or encephalitis – which can be fatal.

“We urge anyone experiencing these symptoms to seek urgent medical care, given the long-term or potentially fatal complications of serious illness,” Professor Sutton said.

The Department of Health provides funding and support to councils in high-risk areas for mosquito-borne diseases to undertake mosquito surveillance and control activities.

Local councils in northern Victoria are continuing their vector control activities to reduce the risk of mosquito-borne diseases.

Additional information about Murray Valley encephalitis is also available on Better Health Channel.

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