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Murray Valley encephalitis: Two new cases of mosquito-borne virus identified in Pilbara and Gascoyne regions

Hannah CrossPerthNow
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Health authorities are warning those in northern WA to protect themselves from mosquitoes after another two people were infected with Murray Valley encephalitis.
Camera IconHealth authorities are warning those in northern WA to protect themselves from mosquitoes after another two people were infected with Murray Valley encephalitis. Credit: TheWest

Health authorities are warning those in northern WA to protect themselves from mosquitoes after another two people were infected with Murray Valley encephalitis.

WA Health said the two cases were identified in the Gascoyne and Pilbara regions, taking the number to three for 2024.

Managing scientist Andrew Jardine said the latest warning came after MVE-infected mosquitoes were first detected for in the Kimberley in the March.

The first infection in the Pilbara was reported on May 1.

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The latest cases indicates the virus has spread further south.

“Community members in these northern regions of WA should remain alert and aware of the dangers of mosquito-borne disease,” Dr Jardine said.

Early symptoms of MVE include fever, drowsiness, headache, stiff neck, nausea, and dizziness.

Affects can then progress to neurological symptoms including confusion, weakness, vision or speech problems and seizures.

Dr Jardine urged parents to be on the lookout for symptoms in children, which can differ from adult symptoms.

“Young children might only display a fever in the first instance and parents should urgently see their doctor or local health service if their child is experiencing drowsiness, floppiness or general distress,” he said.

It comes after a child from West Kimberley died from the infection last year in what was the worst season for MVE in WA in 12 years.

About one in 800 infected people develop severe illness with encephalitis or meningoencephalitis.

The most effective way to protect against the virus is to protect against mosquito bites in the first instance.

To fight the bite, WA Health advises the following:

  • Avoid being outdoors at dawn and early evening when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Wear long, loose fitting, light-coloured clothing.
  • Dress babies and children in suitable clothing, including socks/shoes, and use bed/pram netting.
  • Apply an effective personal mosquito repellent containing diethyltoluamide (DEET), picaridin or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (also known as PMD) evenly to all areas of exposed skin and always follow the label instructions.
  • Ensure insect screens are installed and in good condition on houses and caravans.
  • Use mosquito nets and mosquito-proof tents if sleeping outside.
  • Empty or remove water holding containers around the home.
  • Keep grass and other vegetation short to help prevent mosquitoes around your home.

For more information, visit HealthyWA.

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