Second death from mosquito-borne disease prompts calls for more spraying programs

The recent death of a second person from Murray Valley Encephalitis (MVE) in Northern Australia has prompted calls for an increase in mosquito control spraying programs.

The calls follow the death of 83 year old Gold Coast man Frank Young, on Saturday in the Royal Darwin Hospital - three weeks after he was bitten by a mosquito in a rural area of Darwin - his death followed the death in March of Darwin mango farmer Theofilis Maglis.

The Territory Department of Regional Development, Primary Industry, Fisheries and Resources has come under criticism because current spraying programs are done in swamps around Darwin, but only in some rural swamp areas.

While the head of the Centre for Disease Control, Dr. Vicki Krause, says she thinks the program is adequate, Opposition Leader, Terry Mills says it is time to revisit all the strategies.

While the health department has continually issued warnings about the disease, including when Mr Young was first diagnosed, it did not reveal that he had died at the weekend and his death only came to light after his family placed a death notice in the Northern Territory News.

Dr. Krause, says she has made continuous public warnings about MVE and did not immediately inform the public of Mr Young's death so that his family had time to grieve - but Terry Mills, says the public should have been told about the death immediately in order to understand the seriousness of the threat.

Following the media reports, the Department of Health and Families issued a media release to again remind people to take precautions against mosquitoes and says Mr Young was bitten by a mosquito in a rural, coastal area near Darwin, where more than 13,000 common banded mosquitoes have recently been caught - tests are apparently underway to determine if they have the disease.

The department says other tests have revealed the disease, along with another dangerous mosquito-borne disease called Kunjin, is widespread across the Top End however only one in 1000 people who are bitten by infected mosquitoes will be infected with MVE.

MVE is a mosquito-borne disease caused by the Murray Valley encephalitis virus and is also known as Australian encephalitis it usually occurs in remote north western Australia.

The disease takes between 5 to 15 days from being bitten to becoming sick and the majority of people infected with MVE will have no symptoms.

Of those who do, symptoms include: high fever, severe headache, seizures or fits (especially in young children), tremors, neck stiffness, lethargy, irritability, drowsiness, vomiting, nausea, diarrhoea, dizziness, confusion and coma in severe cases.

The MVE virus is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito known as the "common banded" mosquito, but not all of these mosquitoes carry the virus, and only about 1 person in a 1000 who get bitten by infected mosquitoes will become unwell.

The virus is thought to be mainly carried by water birds and mosquitoes become infected by biting birds or other animals that carry the virus ; people most at risk are babies, young children and newcomers to the region.

The disease is fatal in about 20% of those who become sick, and a further 25% can develop major neurological complications and about 40% of cases will make a complete recovery.

Comments

  1. J M D J M D Australia says:

    This is sad news.
    At 83 years of age one wonders if his immune system was high ?  
    Was he diabetic, or suffer from another chronic condition which would exacerbate the MVE symptoms? if bedridden did he die from pneumonia ?

    Being brought up as a child in TNG, we had anti-malarials weekly, slept under mosquito nets, used insect repellant around the ankles in particular,  and also had those mosquito coils burning at night to avoid being bitten by the anopheles.
    The Govt. sprayed villages, etc with DDT,till it was banned.
    We were trained to tip over any receptacle in which rain water had collected, so that the mosq's wouldn't breed in it.
    What is Kunjin ?

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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