The Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) has warned that detections of the Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE) virus were on the rise, urging people to protect themselves from mosquito bites.
“MVE virus has been detected in mosquitoes across a wide area of western and southern NSW. Sentinel chickens used for surveillance of viruses have also been infected with MVE virus in Macquarie Marshes and Menindee,” the state government said in a statement on Friday.
According to the state’s Ministry of Health, MVE is a rare disease caused by the Murray Valley encephalitis virus, which is spread to humans by infected mosquitoes.
Most people infected with the virus do not have any symptoms, while only a small proportion of those infected may get such symptoms as fever, headache, and nausea. In rare cases, the MVE virus can lead to a severe brain infection known as encephalitis.
Acting Executive Director of Health Protection NSW Paul Douglas voiced his concern that virus levels within mosquito populations are high and there is potential for the virus to spread to people.
“There is no vaccination or specific treatment for Murray Valley encephalitis and the best way to avoid infection is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, which are most active between dusk and dawn,” said Douglas.
The state government noted that the primary hosts of MVE and Japanese encephalitis virus are wild waterbirds, including herons and egrets, while recent detections of MVE virus are likely related to recent flooding and increased numbers of waterbirds.