RESIDENTS and visitors in the Murray Valley are being warned to protect themselves against mosquitoes following the detection of Murray Valley Encephalitis virus (MVE) in New South Wales.
Victoria’s acting Chief Health Officer, Dr Rosemary Lester said the disease has been detected in sentinel chickens in southern New South Wales, including one chicken in a flock at Moama, just across the border from Echuca.
“There have been no confirmed cases of MVE in humans. The last confirmed human case of MVE in Victoria was in 1974,” Dr Lester said.
“Most people who are infected with the virus do not develop symptoms. However, when symptoms occur they include severe headache, high fever, drowsiness, tremor and seizures.
“People experiencing such symptoms should seek urgent medical attention from their GP or their local hospital.”
Flocks of chickens are placed at locations throughout the Murray River region to act as an early warning system for possible human infections with this disease.
Currently there are nine flocks along the Murray, which are regularly tested for a range of mosquito-borne viruses. No virus has been detected in any of Victoria’s chickens.
Mosquito numbers along the Murray River are low and notifications of other vector borne diseases such as Ross River virus disease and Barmah Forest virus disease are also low.
Dr Lester said simple precautions can help protect against mosquitoes.
“Mosquitoes are at their most active at dawn and dusk. To reduce the chances of being bitten, people in mosquito-prone areas should cover up by wearing long, loose-fitting clothing and use insect repellents containing picaridin or DEET as an active ingredient on exposed skin areas when camping, in their gardens or at barbecues,” Dr Lester said.
Householders should ensure that insect screens fitted to doors and windows are in good condition.
Mosquito numbers can be reduced by getting rid of stagnant water around the home or campsites. Mosquitoes will breed in anything that can hold water including old tyres, unused fish ponds and pot plant holders.
As mosquitoes take about 10 days to breed, water containers should be emptied at least once a week.