July 19, 2024

Two people have died from Murray Valley Encephalitis (MVE) in Western Australia, prompting a health warning for anyone visiting the northern parts of the state.

Anyone living in, or planning to travel to northern WA has been advised to protect against mosquito bites and be aware of mosquito-borne diseases.

The warning comes as four cases of the disease have been reported this year, with two people dying after catching the disease in the state’s Pilbara region.

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The alert has been issued for residents and visitors to the Pilbara, Kimberley, Gascoyne and Midwest regions.

Most people infected with Murray Valley Encephalitis virus have no symptoms or only mild ones.

If bitten by a mosquito carrying the disease, a small number of people – about one in every 800 – can develop a severe infection, which can lead to swelling in the brain and at worst, brain damage or death.

There is no effective treatment or vaccine for the rare but serious virus, so the best prevention is to avoid mosquito bites where possible.

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Department of Health Acting Managing Scientist Dr Jay Nicholson said protection against mosquito bites was the best defence against MVE and other mosquito-borne viruses. 

“We anticipate an increase in travellers to the higher-risk northern regions in coming weeks, and I urge travellers to prepare accordingly,” Nicholson said. 

“Consider some of the basic steps prior to your travel, such as packing effective repellent and long, loose-fitting clothing for everyone in the family.

“Residents and workers are also urged to protect themselves, particularly when spending long periods of time outdoors.”

Initial symptoms of MVE include fever, drowsiness, headache, stiff neck, nausea, and dizziness.

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