Local News

Two cases of mosquito spread disease found in Top End

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NT Health has identified two cases of Japanese encephalitis (JE) in the Northern Territory, including one current case and one historical case.

The current case is a child from a remote community in the Top End region who became unwell in June 2022. The child has made a good recovery.

The historical case is a Victorian man in his 70s who contracted the virus while travelling in the Top End region in May 2021 and has since recovered.

The case is recorded as acquired in the NT.

The NT has now recorded three cases of JE in humans. The NT’s first confirmed case was recorded in February 2021 in the Tiwi Islands, when a woman died after contracting the virus.

JE is a potentially fatal disease spread by mosquitoes and can infect animals and humans. It cannot be spread from person to person.

NT Health is urging all Territorians to take precautions against being bitten by mosquitos to prevent infection. In 2022, 52 feral pigs infected by JE have been detected in the Victoria Daly, Litchfield, Marrakai-Douglas Daly, Cox-Daly and West Arnhem areas, as well as the Tiwi Islands.

Simple steps to minimise the risk of mosquito bites include:

o Wearing loose light-coloured protective clothing (long sleeves, trousers, socks) and enclosed shoes

o Applying insect repellent containing DEET, Picaridin or extract of lemon eucalyptus (PMD) on exposed skin before going outside

o Avoiding outdoor exposure around dawn and dusk and at night near areas of dense vegetation or areas of high mosquito activity.

JE symptoms include headaches, fever, seizures, joint stiffness and drowsiness. In some cases the virus can cause severe neurological illness, convulsions and reduced consciousness.

People experiencing these symptoms must seek medical attention immediately.

While there is no specific treatment for JE, a vaccine is available and those at highest risk are being given priority to receive the vaccination, such as people who work directly with feral pigs or mosquitoes such as rangers, entomologists, environmental officers, indicated veterinarians and lab workers.

To date, no domestic pigs in the NT have tested positive to JE.

JE is a notifiable disease and animal owners and hunters should report suspicious or unusual signs in animals to the Emergency Animal Disease Watch hotline on 1800 675 888.