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Health alert – Japanese encephalitis virus detected in Victoria 4 March 2022

Date issued: 04 March 2022 (update to 26 February 2022)

Issued by: Associate Professor Deborah Friedman, Deputy Chief Health Officer (Communicable Disease)

Issued to: Health professionals, residents and visitors in Victorian-NSW border areas.

Key messages

  • Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) is a rare but potentially serious infection of the brain caused by a virus spread to humans through mosquito bites.
  • In the last week JEV has been detected in pigs in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.
  • There are several current and recent cases of encephalitis in Victoria that are under investigation and are strongly suspected to be caused by JEV.
  • Most JEV infections are asymptomatic, however those with severe infection (less than one per cent) may experience headache, vomiting, disorientation, seizures, coma, and more rarely, permanent neurological complications or death.
  • Anyone experiencing these symptoms, particularly if they’ve visited the Murray River area between Mildura and Wodonga near the border of Victoria and New South Wales or been in contact with pigs, should seek urgent medical attention.
  • Clinicians must consider and test for JEV and other arboviruses in patients with unexplained encephalitis, after other common causes such as Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV) and enteroviruses have been excluded.
  • Clinicians should notify the immediately of suspected cases by calling 1300 651 160 (24 hours).
  • Avoid mosquito bites by using mosquito repellent containing picaridin or DEET on all exposed skin. Wear long, loose fitting clothing when outside, and ensure accommodation, including tents, are properly fitted with mosquito nettings or screens.
  • Read the full Alert: Japanese encephalitis virus detected in Victoria.

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