Murray Valley Encephalitis Virus Detected

NT Government
Media Release

Northern Territory Government

NT Health Mosquito surveillance detects Murray Valley encephalitis in the Top End and Barkly

8 April 2024

NT Health is reminding Territorians to remain vigilant and protect themselves against mosquito bites after the virus surveillance program detected Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE) in the Top End and Barkly regions.

MVE is an uncommon but potentially fatal disease that occurs after being bitten by a mosquito carrying the MVE virus. From now until June is the highest risk period for serious mosquito borne diseases, including MVE.

Eight cases of MVE were recorded in the Northern Territory (NT) in 2023, with two fatal cases.

Surveillance and testing of mosquitoes for diseases in the NT is carried out by NT Health and the Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade (DITT). Mosquitoes collected in February and March 2024 returned positive results for MVE for sites in both Greater Darwin and Tennant Creek.

So far in 2024, almost 42,000 mosquitoes have been tested across all NT regions for diseases including MVE, Japanese encephalitis and Kunjin virus.

Nina Kurucz, Director of Medical Entomology, NT Health, said the positive surveillance results suggest the MVE virus is present in mosquitoes throughout the NT.

“The only protection from MVE, is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes,” Ms Kurucz said.

“To ensure the best protection from mosquito bites, it’s important to cover up, use insect repellents and avoid areas where mosquitoes are active, such as swamps and wetlands.

“Infants and children especially need to be protected.”

Symptoms of MVE can include headaches, fever, nausea and vomiting, muscle aches, seizures, tremor or fits and can progress to delirium, coma, permanent brain damage or death.

Anyone concerned about symptoms should contact their healthcare provider. Avoiding mosquito bites is a top priority.

Learn more about MVE on the NT Health website here.

To minimise the chance of being bitten by mosquitoes, people should:

· Make sure infants and young children are well protected from mosquitoes

· Cover up with long light-coloured sleeved shirts and pants, socks and shoes

· Use insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalypt (PMD)

· Avoid areas where mosquitoes are active, especially after sun down

· Use mosquito proof tents when camping.

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