Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD) is urging the community to protect themselves against mosquito bites.
Last mosquito season Japanese encephalitis (JE) virus was detected in NSW for the first time. A total of 13 confirmed cases (people with severe illness) were notified in NSW last season, including from areas in Western NSW. In addition, JE was detected in samples from commercial pig farms in western NSW indicating the virus is likely circulating in the mosquito population.
JE vaccine is now recommended for people aged two months or older who live or routinely work in 41 Local Government Areas, including; Bogan, Bourke, Brewarrina, Cobar, Coonamble, Dubbo Regional, Forbes, Gilgandra, Lachlan, Narromine, Parkes, Walgett, Warren, Warrumbungle and Weddin shires, with identified JE risk in the WNSWLHD who:
• Spend significant time outdoors (four hours per day), for unavoidable work, recreation, education, or other essential activities, OR
• Are living in temporary or flood damaged accommodation (e.g. camps, tents, dwellings exposed to the external environment) that place them at increased risk of exposure to mosquitoes, OR
• Are engaged in the prolonged outdoor recovery efforts (clean up) of stagnant waters following floods.
JE is a mosquito borne disease that may affect animals, including pigs, and humans. The virus is spread by mosquito bites.
“It is really important to protect yourself from mosquito bites as mosquitoes can spread viruses including Japanese encephalitis,” WNSWLHD Director of Public Health Priscilla Stanley said.
Less than one per cent of people infected with JE experience symptoms, which typically include fever, joint pain, and rash. Occasionally, JE can cause severe a neurological illness with headache, seizures, and neck stiffness.
“There is no specific treatment for JE or other mosquito-borne viruses. The best way to avoid infection is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes,” Ms Stanley said.
“Unfortunately, our recent wet weather has led to very high mosquito numbers, so we need the community to be particularly vigilant and take steps to avoid mosquito bites.
“We know mosquitoes are most active between dusk and dawn, and we need people planning activities near waterways or where mosquitoes are present to be especially cautious, particularly those in the vicinity of the Murray River and its branches.”
Protect yourself and your family by:
• covering openings such as windows and doors with insect screens and checking there are no have gaps in them
• removing items that might collect water (such as old tyres, empty pots) outside your house where mosquitoes can breed
• improving drainage on your property so that water does not become stagnant
• wearing light, loose-fitting long-sleeved shirts, long pants and covered footwear and socks, especially around dusk and dawn
• applying repellent to all areas of exposed skin, using repellents that contain DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus
• re-applying repellent regularly, particularly after swimming, being sure to always apply sunscreen first and then apply repellent
• using insecticide sprays, vapour dispensing units and mosquito coils to repel mosquitos (mosquito coils should only be used outside).