NSW country man becomes fifth Australian to die of Japanese encephalitis this year

A man from the country of New South Wales has been confirmed as the fifth Australian to die Japanese encephalitis This year.

The man in his 60s from Corowa on the NSW-Victoria border contracted the disease in early March.

He died at Albury Base Hospital on Friday, NSW Health confirmed in a statement.

Japanese encephalitis kills about a quarter of its victims.
There is no treatment for acute Japanese encephalitis. (Provided)

Thirteen people in the past year have been infected with Japanese encephalitis in the past year and two have died.

NSW’s first death from Japanese encephalitis this year was a man in his 60s from the riverside town of Griffith.

People considered to be at higher risk of exposure include workers in piggeries, animal transport, veterinarians and students working with pigs, laboratory workers handling Japanese encephalitis, entomologists and other persons engaged in the trapping of animals and mosquitoes for surveillance purposes.

NSW Health said members of these groups should talk to their doctor about getting vaccinated against the disease.

What is Japanese encephalitis virus?

The Japanese encephalitis virus is transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito.

It is common across a wide swath of Asia and the Western Pacific, including India, most of China, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Japan.

Most humans who contract the virus have no symptoms or mild symptoms like headache or fever.

A person with a serious illness may experience inflammation of the brain, sudden onset of vomiting, high fever and chills, severe headache, sensitivity to light, neck stiffness and nausea.

Japanese encephalitis is not transmitted from person to person.

Pigs on the farm
The virus is known to be present in 14 Australian piggeries. (Provided)

Japanese encephalitis in pigs

Australia’s chief veterinarian, Dr Mark Schipp, said JEV had been confirmed in 14 piggeries in NSW, South Australia, Queensland and Victoria.

Dr Schipp said the virus cannot be contracted by eating pork from infected pigs.

“We ask anyone who works with pigs or horses, even if it is a pet in the yard, to monitor and report any possible signs of this disease.

“The most common symptoms in pigs are mummified or stillborn piglets, or piglets that show neurological problems within the first six months of life.

“The disease tends to be asymptomatic in adult sows, but boars can suffer from infertility and testicular congestion.”

How to Avoid Japanese Encephalitis

The best way to stop getting the Japanese encephalitis virus is to do your best to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes.

While mosquito bites can occur at any time of day, Queensland Health warns that dawn and dusk are the times most at risk.

“Around your home, it’s important to inspect common mosquito breeding sites, clean up debris, and be sure to empty, wipe down, and store all outdoor containers in a dry place,” said Queensland Health in a statement.

“It’s also important to make sure the mosquito nets are in good condition so mosquitoes can’t easily enter your home.”

Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said people should take extra precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, “particularly given recent flooding which could lead to an increase in mosquito numbers. in the coming weeks”.

“Especially with these floods, there will be a lot of static water around the houses, and we ask that you remove this water during cleaning to reduce the risk of mosquitoes.”

Vaccines are available in Australia against the Japanese encephalitis virus, but most people have not received it.

Mosquito mozzie bite
The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Simple steps to avoid mosquito bites

Things you can do to prevent mosquito bites include:

  • Cover up as much as possible with loose, light-colored clothing and covered shoes when outdoors.
  • Use an effective insect repellent on exposed skin and reapply it within hours. The best mosquito repellents contain diethyltoluamide (DEET), picaridin, or lemon eucalyptus oil.
  • Use insecticide sprays, steam distribution units (indoors) and mosquito coils (outdoors) to clean rooms or repel mosquitoes from an area.
  • Cover all windows, doors, vents and other entrances with screens.
  • Remove all containers with water outside the house where mosquitoes could breed.

How to treat Japanese encephalitis?

There is no specific treatment for acute Japanese encephalitis.

Of those who develop the acute neurological disease, approximately 30% do not survive.

For those who do, about half will have long-term neurological impacts.

Less than one percent of people infected with encephalitis viruses eventually develop acute symptoms.

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