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Japanese encephalitis virus warning – mosquito protection more important as big wet summer starts

Workers and their families in communities west of the Great Dividing Range from the Burnett region to the Murray-Darling catchment are being warned to protect themselves from mosquitoes that may be carrying Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV).

Japanese encephalitis is a potentially serious disease. Most human infections cause either no symptoms or mild fevers and headaches, but it can cause severe disease in about one in 100 people, resulting in brain swelling, which can be fatal.

JEV cannot be spread from human to human, but mosquitoes can carry it. JEV is transmitted to humans through the bite of a mosquito that has bitten an infectious animal. Some animals like pigs (domestic and feral) and water birds can amplify the virus, meaning there are many more virus particles for mosquitos to spread. Humans and horses can be infected but can’t transmit the virus to others.

The big wet expected this summer will increase mosquito breeding sites and numbers. Waterbirds will also be heading south along the river catchments.

People who work and live in areas close to waterways or pig populations (either feral or domestic piggeries) should protect themselves by:

  • reducing mosquito breeding sites – empty containers, prevent water collecting around living/working areas
  • wearing long clothing
  • using mosquito repellent
  • using mossie-zappers
  • having mosquito screens on windows and doors.

JEV vaccination is recommended for the following at risk groups:

  • people who work at, live near or have a planned, non-deferable visit to:
    • a piggery, including farm workers and their families (including children aged 2 months and older) living at the piggery, transport workers, veterinarians and others involved in the care of pigs
    • a pork abattoir or pork rendering plant
  • pig doggers and hunters
  • personnel who work directly with mosquitoes through their surveillance (field or laboratory based) or control and management such as:
    • environmental health officers and workers (urban and remote)
    • entomologists
  • diagnostic and research laboratory workers who may be exposed to the virus
  • people who live or work in the local government areas of Balonne, Goondiwindi, North Burnett, Western Downs or Southwest Toowoomba Regional Council (surrounding and including Millmerran)
    • are at risk of JEV infection due to occupational or recreational outdoor activities undertaken near potentially productive mosquito habitat, such as areas near rivers, ponds and marshes, including flood zones and wherever there are bodies of standing water
  • people who live or work in the Torres Strait and/or Northern Peninsula Area of Cape York.

More information