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Beware of mosquito bites, SA Health warns after Japanese encephalitis cases emerge
Health authorities are warning people along the River Murray to be extra vigilant about a new mosquito-borne virus.
Take extra care not to be bitten by mosquitoes at the moment – SA Health warns that they may be carrying a new and dangerous disease.
As if COVID-19 weren’t enough, four cases of Japanese encephalitis have been confirmed in South Australia for the first time.
Another six possible cases are under investigation, including one which led to a patient’s death.
Up to 99 per cent of people who are exposed to the Japanese encephalitis virus develop mild or no symptoms.
However, some may develop encephalitis, or swelling of the brain, which can be fatal or cause lasting brain damage.
The risk of serious consequences is highest for children under the age of five.
Symptoms may include confusion, headaches, neck stiffness, tremors, drowsiness or seizures; anyone who experiences them should seek medical attention without delay.
SA Health spokesman Dr Chris Lease advised everyone to take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, especially along the River Murray and during the early evening.
“If you are outside, apply an insect repellent containing DEET or picaridin, and try to stop mosquitoes coming indoors,” he said.
“If you are outside, cover up with long, loose fitting and light-coloured clothing – mosquitoes can bite through tight clothing such as jeans or leggings.
“Mosquito coils can also be useful when outside and aerosol knockdown or surface insect sprays can also help control mosquitoes indoors."
Other helpful measures included clearing up any pools of standing water around backyards, and installing mosquito-proof screens on doors and windows.
Climate change was one of the reasons mosquito-borne disease was becoming more prevalent in South Australia, not just in the tropics, Dr Lease said.
The Japanese encephalitis virus is related to those which cause Murray Valley encephalitis and West Nile fever, and cannot be transmitted between humans.
A vaccine does exist, and is recommended by the federal Department of Health for anyone travelling to Asia or the Torres Strait.
More information: www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/fightthebite.
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