City of Karratha

Mosquito warning for residents and travellers heading north

09 May 2017

The City of Karratha, in partnership with the Department of Health, is reminding travellers and residents of northern WA to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

The warning follows continued evidence of Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE) and Kunjin virus activity in sentinel chicken flocks across the Kimberley and Pilbara regions. Three suspected human cases of Kunjin virus disease have recently been detected across both regions, which if confirmed will be the first human cases of the disease in WA since 2006.
 
Both viruses are only carried by mosquitoes, and while the risk of being infected and becoming unwell is low, the symptoms associated with both MVE and Kunjin diseases can be seriously debilitating. In the case of MVE, the virus can be potentially fatal.
 
Initial symptoms of MVE include fever, drowsiness, headache, stiff neck, nausea and dizziness. People experiencing these symptoms should seek immediate medical advice. In severe cases, people may experience fits, lapse into a coma, and may be left with permanent brain damage or die. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should visit their GP.
 
Kunjin virus usually causes milder symptoms than MVE virus, but in rare cases could also cause severe symptoms, including headache, neck stiffness, fever, delirium and coma.
 
The City of Karratha has also experienced an increase in the number of Ross River virus (RRV) disease notifications in recent months. Symptoms of RRV include painful or swollen joints, sore muscles, skin rashes, fever, fatigue and headaches, and can last for weeks or months. Anyone experiencing symptoms should visit their GP as the only way to properly diagnose infection is by having a specific blood test.
 
WA Health Chief Health Officer Professor Tarun Weeramanthri said that people did not need to alter their plans to visit the Kimberley or Pilbara regions, but they must take simple steps to avoid mosquito bites when camping, fishing or undertaking any other activity outdoors.
 
“As there are no specific cures or vaccines for any of these viruses, it is important to prevent being bitten,” Professor Weeramanthri said.
 
“Travellers and residents should avoid outdoor exposure around dawn and early evening and wear protective long, loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing when outdoors."
 
“In addition, personal insect repellents containing diethyl toluamide (DEET) or Picaridin should be applied to all areas of exposed skin.”
 
Individuals in northern WA are advised to take the following simple steps to prevent mosquito bites:• avoid outdoor exposure around dawn and early evening• wear protective (long, loose-fitting, light-coloured) clothing when outdoors
 
• apply a personal repellent 
• ensure infants and children are adequately protected against mosquito bites, preferably with suitable clothing, bed nets or other forms of insect screening
• when sitting outside, use mosquito coils and mosquito lanterns to deter mosquitoes 
• ensure insect screens are installed and in good condition on houses and caravans and always use mosquito-proof tents when camping
• if your accommodation or tent is not mosquito-proof, cover your sleeping area with a mosquito net
• reduce mosquito breeding around your accommodation by removing, emptying or covering anything that holds water.
 
For more information, contact the City of Karratha or visit healthywa.wa.gov.au/FighttheBite
 
Media contact: (08) 9222 4333
 
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