Kunjin virus alert

Department of Health

People in the East Arnhem region and Central Australia are being warned to protect themselves against the mosquito-borne disease, Kunjin virus.

The virus, which can cause severe headaches, high fever, drowsiness, tremor and seizures, is most prevalent between February and the end of June.

Testing by surveillance teams has found Kunjin virus activity in the East Arnhem region and Central Australia, where sentinel chickens tested positive in both Tennant Creek and Alice Springs.

Acting Director of Medical Entomology, Alexander Roberts, has warned people in these areas to protect themselves against mosquito bites, particularly if they are outside after sundown.

“Mosquito numbers are expected to increase at this time of year, especially within a few kilometres of breeding sites like permanent wetlands, seasonal lagoons and water-filled grassy depressions.”

Mr Roberts said mosquitoes could transmit both Kunjin virus and the potentially deadly, Murray Valley encephalitis virus (MVEV).

While no signs of MVEV had been detected this Wet Season, it does occur in the NT during the current high-risk period.

“To avoid mosquito-borne disease of any kind, you should wear protective clothing and use personal mosquito protection. If possible, try not to be outdoors after sunset, particularly close to wetlands or places where mosquitoes are active,” Mr Roberts said.

The key steps to protect against mosquito bite are:

  • using a protective repellent containing 20 per cent DEET or Picaridin, or 30 per cent PMD (extract of lemon eucalyptus) as a supplement to protective clothing when outdoors in mosquito-prone areas.
  • wearing light-coloured clothing with long sleeves, long trousers and socks, between dusk and dawn in areas where mosquito bites are likely
  • avoiding outdoor exposure around dusk, at night and at sunrise near areas of dense vegetation and other areas of high mosquito activity
  • using mosquito coils, mosquito lanterns and barrier sprays containing bifenthrin in patio and outdoor areas near houses
  • ensuring infants and children are adequately protected against mosquitoes.

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