Northern Territory

Top End warned to cover up following Murray Valley encephalitis case

Top End residents and visitors are urged to cover up against mosquitoes following a recent case of Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE) acquired in a remote Arnhem Land community.

“February to July marks the main risk period for the potentially fatal MVE, with the carrier being the common banded mosquito, Culex annulirostris,” Vicki Krause, Director Centre for Disease Control said.

Virus testing in sentinel chickens has indicated MVE activity in Katherine in January 2018 and Kunjin virus activity in the Darwin region in March 2018. While numbers of the common banded mosquito are relatively low in urban areas, elevated mosquito numbers can occur in rural Top End areas at this time of year within five kilometres of freshwater creeks, flood plains and swamps.

Since reporting began in 1974, a total of 37 MVE case have been notified in the NT, with the last case reported in the Katherine region in May 2015. The current case is making a recovery in hospital.

MVE is a rare disease, but can potentially be fatal. The symptoms can include severe headache, high fever, drowsiness, tremor, seizures (especially in young children) and in some cases the disease can progress to delirium, coma, permanent brain damage or death.

People most at risk include campers, infants and young children residing near mosquito-breeding areas. People in remote Top End communities and anyone visiting parks and recreation areas where mosquitoes may be active are also at greater risk of contracting a mosquito-borne disease, including MVE.

To minimise the chance of being bitten by mosquitoes, people should:

  • use a protective repellent containing 20 per cent DEET or Picaridin as a supplement to protective clothing when outdoors in mosquito prone areas
  • wear light-coloured clothing with long sleeves, long trousers and socks, between dusk and dawn in areas where mosquito bites are likely
  • avoid outdoor exposure around dusk and at night near areas of dense vegetation and other areas of high mosquito activity
  • use mosquito-proof accommodation and camping facilities at night
  • use mosquito coils, mosquito lanterns and barrier sprays containing bifenthrin in patio and outdoor areas near houses
  • ensure children are adequately protected against mosquitoes.

Source: NT Government