23 February 2011
Health warning to avoid Mosquitoes
Residents and visitors of the Southern and Murrumbidgee areas of NSW are reminded to take extra precautions and protect themselves against mosquitoes following the detection of Murray Valley Encephalitis or MVE virus in parts of Victoria and border areas of NSW.
The disease has been detected in sentinel chickens in the Victorian towns of Mildura, Robinvale, Kerang and Barmah, but also in Tooleybuc in NSW, near Swan Hill.
The Acting Director of NSW Health Protection, Dr Michael Staff, said this is a timely reminder for all people to cover up and avoid mosquito bites.
“Recent flooding and warm weather increase exposure to mosquito borne viruses such as Ross River virus and Barmah Forest virus which are common in NSW and can cause illness with symptoms including tiredness, rash fever and sore swollen joints,” Dr Staff said.
Dr Staff said while MVE has not been detected in humans, mosquitoes are known to bite chickens and can infect them with viruses. Sentinel chicken flocks act as a warning system for human infection by being regularly monitored for any viruses that mosquitoes might be transmitting.
“While Murray Valley Encephalitis or MVE is rare, and most people will not develop symptoms, it is still a serious mosquito-borne disease that can lead to permanent brain damage and may be fatal in severe cases,” Dr Staff warned.
In mild cases, symptoms of MVE include fever, headache, nausea and vomiting and muscle aches. In more severe cases symtoms can include neck stiffness, lethargy, delerium, tremors and coma in severe cases. People with these symptoms should immediately seek medical assistance.
“In young children, fever might be the only early sign, so parents should see their doctor if concerned, and particularly if their child has convulsions, drowsiness, floppiness, irritability, poor feeding or general distress.”
“The MVE virus is transmitted by infected mosquitoes which breed in flooded, grassy and swamp areas and around rivers and waterways. The mosquito is especially active around dawn and around sundown, with a peak in the first two hours of the night.
Simple steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes:
There is no specific treatment for these viruses so prevention depends on avoiding mosquito bites, especially in the summer and autumn months when infections peak.
The last human case of MVE in NSW or Victoria was reported back in 1974 when a large outbreak occurred throughout much of south eastern Australia. The sentienial chickens were placed at locations along the Murray River region to act as an early warning system for possible human infections of this disease.
For a copy of the NSW Health fact sheet on Murray River Encephalitis (MVE) virus, Ross River Fever or Barmah Forest virus go to: