WITH floods affecting large parts of the eastern states in recent months, health authorities are urging people in rural areas to vaccinate themselves for Japanese Encephalitis Virus.
People living in most shires west of the Great Dividing Range have been identified as the highest risk of attracting the virus. According to Queensland Health, symptoms include fever and headache, abdominal pain and vomiting in children.
Health departments in Qld, New South Wales and Victoria have released a list of local government areas they are concerned about and are recommending residents to vaccinate.
- Qld – vaccination is recommended for people in the Balonne, Goondiwindi, North Burnett, Quilpie, South Burnett, Western Downs or Southwest Toowoomba Regional Council areas.
- NSW – Albury, Balranald, Berrigan, Bland, Bogan, Bourke, Brewarrina, Broken Hill, Carrathool, Central Darling, Cobar, Coolamon, Coonamble, Dubbo Regional, Edward River, Federation, Forbes, Gilgandra, Goulburn Mulwaree, Greater Hume, Griffith, Hay, Junee, Lachlan, Leeton, Lockhart, Moree Plains, Murray River, Murrumbidgee, Narrabri, Narrandera, Narromine, Parkes, Temora, Unincorporated Far West Area, Wagga Wagga, Walgett, Warren, Warrumbungle, Weddin and Wentworth.
- Vic – Campaspe, Gannawarra, Greater Shepparton, Indigo, Loddon, Mildura, Moira, Swan Hill, Wodonga, Towong, Benalla, Wangaratta and Strathbogie
The agricultural workforce fits the bill for the high-risk categories, with people working outside for more than four-hours-a-day on the list. Health authorities are also recommending people living near pigs and horses to take precautions.
“JEV is primarily transmitted by bites from infected mosquito vectors and is maintained in mosquito–waterbird or mosquito–waterbird–pig cycles. Australia has a number of mosquito species that are capable of transmitting the virus,” according to the Qld Health website.
“Pigs are known as ‘amplifiers’ of the virus as they develop levels of virus in their blood sufficient to infect mosquitoes for around 4 days.
“Horses and a wide range of other species may be infected but do not develop levels of virus in their blood sufficient to infect mosquitoes, so are not involved in maintaining the disease life cycle.
“JEV does not survive for long in the environment and windborne spread of the virus has not been reported.”
Qld Health recommendations to minimise risk
The best way to protect yourself is to reduce your chance of being bitten by a mosquito and minimise the risk of them breeding in and around your home.
To reduce your chance of being bitten:
- keep insect screens on doors and windows in good repair, especially in sleeping areas.
- apply insect repellent containing DEET or picaridin according to the product label directions and precautions.
- wear long, loose-fitting clothing (light-coloured clothing is best), especially at dusk and in the first few hours after sunset.
- use plug-in insecticide vaporisers (indoors) and mosquito coils (outdoors).
- use a mosquito net when camping.
To minimise mosquitos breeding in and around your home:
- clean up debris, rubbish, and places where water can pool, such as old tires and containers,
- tip out and wipe plastic containers, bins, boats, bird baths, trailers, tarps, and buckets.
- store anything that can hold water undercover, in a dry place, or with a lid.
- reduce the number of bromeliads growing in your garden.
Source: Qld Health, NSW Health and Vic Health