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Health alert – Japanese encephalitis virus detected in Victoria 11 March 2022

Date issued: 11 March 2022 (update to 4 March 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 (JE) virus can cause a rare but potentially serious infection of the brain and is spread to humans through mosquito bites.
  • JE virus has been detected in pigs in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia.
  • There are now 7 confirmed and 2 probable cases of Japanese encephalitis infection in Victoria.
  • Most JE virus 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 northern and north-west Victoria or southern New South Wales, along the Murray River and its surrounds, or been in contact with pigs, should seek urgent medical attention.
  • Clinicians must consider and test for JE virus 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 Department 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.
  • For more information relating to this incident see the Japanese encephalitis in Victoria page.
  • Read the full Alert: Japanese encephalitis virus detected in Victoria.

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