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A second fatality from Japanese encephalitis (JE) has been reported this week in New South Wales, according to NSW Health.
The case involved a man in his 60s from the Corowa area, who was diagnosed with the Japanese encephalitis virus in early March, and died on Friday, May 20 at Albury Base Hospital.
To date, a total of 13 residents of NSW have been infected with JE and two have died. While there is some evidence that mosquito numbers have declined, it remains important that people across the state continue to take steps to prevent mosquito bites.
Nationwide, Australia has reported 42 cases of Japanese encephalitis in humans, including five deaths.
People considered to be at higher risk of exposure include workers in piggeries, animal transport, veterinarians and students who work with pigs, lab workers who deal with Japanese encephalitis, entomologists and others who capture animals and mosquitoes for surveillance . NSW Health encourages people in these groups to talk to their primary care physician about getting a JE vaccine.
The JE virus is spread by mosquitoes and can infect animals and humans. The virus cannot be transmitted between humans and cannot be caught by eating pork or other pig products.
There is no specific treatment for JE, which in some cases can cause severe neurological disorders with headaches, convulsions and impaired consciousness.
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It is important not to get bitten by mosquitoes. Simple actions you can take include:
- Avoid going outside during mosquito peak times, especially at dawn and dusk, and near wetland and bushland areas.
- Wear long sleeves and pants outdoors (reduce skin exposure). Also wear shoes and socks whenever possible. Insecticides (eg, permethrin) are available for treating clothing for people who will be outside for extended periods of time.
- Apply a repellent to all areas of exposed skin, especially those containing DEET, picaridin, or lemon eucalyptus oil, which are most effective against mosquitoes. The strength of a repellent determines the duration of protection, with the higher concentrations providing a longer duration of protection. Always check the label for reapplication times.
- Reapply repellent after swimming. The duration of the repellent protection is also reduced with perspiration, such as during strenuous activity or hot weather, so more frequent reapplication may be necessary.
- Apply the sunscreen first, then apply the repellent. Keep in mind that DEET-containing repellents can lower the sun protection factor (SPF) of sunscreens, so you may need to reapply the sunscreen more often.
- Especially for children – most skin repellents are safe for use on children three months and older when used as directed, although some formulations are only recommended for children 12 months and older – always check the product. Babies under three months can be protected from mosquitoes by using a baby carrier draped with mosquito nets tied around the edges.
- If you are camping, make sure the tent has mosquito nets to prevent mosquitoes from entering.
- Mosquito coils and other insecticide-dispensing devices can help reduce mosquito bites, but should be used in conjunction with topical repellents.
- Reduce all water-holding containers around the house where mosquitoes can breed. Mosquitoes only need a small amount of liquid to breed.