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  • Mosquito-borne disease warning for the Pilbara

    The Department of Health is reminding residents and travellers in the north of Western Australia to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

    The warning follows evidence of ongoing activity of Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE) virus in the Kimberley region, and the first evidence of MVE virus in the Pilbara region for 2018.

    WA Health’s Acting Medical Entomologist, Dr Andrew Jardine, said activity of MVE virus has continued in the Kimberley since the first detections this season in February. However, the virus has now been detected in the Pilbara region as well.

    “While no human cases of MVE have been reported in WA since 2011, evidence of the virus has been detected in sentinel chicken flocks, which are used as an early warning system for virus activity,” Dr Jardine said.

    “MVE virus is only carried by mosquitoes, and while the risk of being infected and becoming unwell is low, the illness can be severe.

    “Although recent mosquito monitoring by the Department found that mosquito numbers in some parts of the Kimberley and Pilbara are dropping with the onset of the northern dry season, the sentinel chicken results mean that it is still important that people continue to protect themselves from mosquito bites for the next several weeks”.

    Initial symptoms of MVE include fever, drowsiness, headache, stiff neck, nausea and dizziness. People experiencing these symptoms should seek medical advice quickly. In severe cases, people may experience fits, lapse into a coma, and may be left with permanent brain damage or die. 

    In young children, fever might be the only early sign, so parents should see their doctor if concerned, particularly if their child experiences drowsiness, floppiness, irritability, poor feeding, or general distress.

    There are no specific cures or vaccines for MVE so it is important that people take care to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes.

    “People do not need to alter their plans to visit the Kimberley or Pilbara regions, but it is important they take some simple steps to avoid mosquito bites when camping, fishing or undertaking any other activity outdoors,” Dr Jardine said.

    Simple steps to avoid mosquito bites are:

    • avoid outdoor exposure around dawn and early evening
    • wear protective (long, loose-fitting, light-coloured) clothing when outdoors
    • apply a personal repellent containing diethyl toluamide (DEET) or picaridin to exposed skin or clothing. The most effective and long-lasting formulations are lotions or gels. Natural or organic repellents are generally not as effective as DEET or picaridin or need to be reapplied more frequently.
    • use mosquito coils and mosquito lanterns and apply barrier sprays containing bifenthrin in patio and outdoor areas around houses
    • ensure insect screens are installed and in good condition on houses and caravans
    • use mosquito nets and mosquito-proof tents when camping
    • ensure infants and children are adequately protected against mosquito bites, preferably with suitable clothing, bed nets or other forms of insect screening.

    If you have any concerns please don’t hesitate to contact the Shire on 9188 4444.

    Remember to be vigilant and ‘Fight the Bite’.

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