The Western Australia Department of Health is warning residents and travellers in the Kimberley region to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites, following heavy rainfall, flooding and the first evidence of Kunjin virus activity this season.
Kunjin virus has been detected for the first time this season, through the Department of Health’s sentinel chicken surveillance program, which provides early warning of virus activity within the environment.
Department of Health Managing Scientist, Dr Abbey Potter, said Kunjin virus is transmitted to people through the bite of an infected mosquito.
“Most people infected with Kunjin virus do not develop symptoms. In rare cases, the disease can lead to nausea, drowsiness, headache, dizziness, neck stiffness, confusion and seizures. People experiencing these symptoms should seek medical advice urgently,” she said.
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In young children, fever might be the only early sign of infection. Parents should see their doctor or local health service if concerned. If their child experiences drowsiness, floppiness, irritability, seizures, poor feeding, or general distress they should seek medical attention urgently.
There is currently no specific treatment or vaccine for the virus. The only effective way to prevent infection is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.
It is important that residents and travellers to the Kimberley region take the following simple steps to avoid mosquito bites:
- avoid outdoor exposure, particularly at dawn and early evening
- wear protective (long, loose-fitting, light-coloured) clothing when outdoors
- apply an effective personal repellent containing diethyltoluamide (DEET) or picaridin evenly to all areas of exposed skin and always follow the label instructions
- ensure insect screens are installed and in good condition on houses and caravans
- use mosquito nets and mosquito-proof tents if sleeping outside
- ensure infants and children are adequately protected against mosquito bites, preferably with suitable clothing, shoes/socks, bed nets or other forms of insect screening.
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