Japanese encephalitis: Health warning after deadly virus detected in Halls Creek

Health authorities are warning North West residents and travellers to protect themselves from mosquito bites after the potentially deadly Japanese encephalitis was detected in the Kimberley town of Halls Creek for the first time.

The Health Department’s sentinel chicken surveillance program, which acts as a warning system for mosquito-borne disease, has pinpointed evidence of prior infection with Japanese encephalitis virus within the flock in recent months.

Communicable disease control acting director Jelena Maticevic said JEV activity in the region posed “a significant risk” to human health.

“The Halls Creek result follows other evidence of JEV in the east Kimberley, including in Kununurra and Wyndham, as well as in Newman in the Pilbara, indicating an ongoing risk of JEV in the northern part of the State,” Dr Maticevic said.

“Most people infected with JEV will have no or very mild symptoms and will fully recover, however, a small percentage will go on to develop severe illness, including encephalitis (brain inflammation), which can lead to serious complications and death.

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