Health authorities urge caution after detection of dangerous mosquito virus in Kimberley

The West Australian
Camera IconCredit: RegionalHUB

Kimberley residents have been warned to take extra precautions to avoid mosquito bites, after two dangerous viruses were detected in chickens in the region.

The WA Department of Health issued a warning to residents and travellers to the Kimberley and Pilbara regions this week, after finding evidence of Murray Valley encephalitis and Kunjin virus activity through its chicken surveillance program.

Department of Health managing scientist Abbey Potter said MVE and Kunjin viruses were transmitted through bites from infected mosquitoes.

“While the risk of being infected and becoming unwell is low, the resulting illness can be severe. In the case of MVE, infection can be fatal,” Ms Potter said.

Initial symptoms of MVE include fever, drowsiness, headache, stiff neck, nausea and dizziness. In severe cases, people may experience seizures, lapse into a coma, be left with permanent brain damage or die.

Dr Potter said symptoms of Kunjin virus disease were usually milder than MVE, but in rare cases, infection may result in headache, neck stiffness, fever and coma.

“There is currently no specific treatment or vaccine for either virus. The only effective way to prevent infection is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes,” she said.

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