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Be on the alert for Japanese encephalitis

Workplaces and communities inland of the Great Dividing Range are encouraged to be on the alert for the mosquito borne Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV). Mosquitos infected with JEV can transmit it to humans and animals, including horses, pigs and water birds.

Although only one per cent of people bitten by JEV carrying mosquitoes become sick, those who do develop the disease can become very unwell, with symptoms like fever and headache. Severe disease is characterised by an inflammation of the brain, with sudden onset of high fever and chills, severe headache, photophobia, neck stiffness, nausea, convulsions, and coma. Of these severe cases, approximately one-third die and one-third are left with permanent disabilities. (QH website).

Horses, like humans, don’t produce enough virus in their blood to reinfect more mosquitoes, nor can they infect humans. However, they may display signs and symptoms of high temperature, lethargy and neurological effects.

Pigs and water birds are known as amplifying hosts, because if they become infected, they produce high levels of virus which can then reinfect more mosquitoes. Pigs typically do not show signs of disease and most commonly the only sign of infection are stillborn or weak piglets at birth. Japanese encephalitis is primarily spread by mosquitoes, it is not spread from pigs to people or generally from pig to pig. Pigs are only infectious with the virus for a few days, usually within the first week of being bitten. There is no risk of catching JEV by eating pork products.

By preventing mosquito bites, you can prevent illness caused by JEV. People should try to prevent mosquito bites by using mosquito repellent containing picaridin, DEET or oil of lemon eucalyptus on all exposed skin and reapply every few hours. Wear long, light coloured and loose-fitting clothing as well as covered footwear when outside.

Ensure accommodation, including tents, is properly fitted with mosquito nettings or screens, especially in areas near waterways. Empty water from pots and containers and prevent it pooling in areas around homes and camping sites. People hunting pigs or camping near sites with waterbird populations should be particularly careful to reduce exposure to mosquito bites.

Further information