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SA’s encephalitis death confirmed as Japanese strain

Summary

Four more cases of the deadly Japanese encephalitis have been confirmed in South Australia. The additional cases included a woman who died from the virus earlier this month, but analysis had only recently confirmed it was the overseas strain.It brings the total cases in the state to eight and five infected patients remain in hospital.It has also been revealed six people contracted the virus in the Riverland and Murray Mallee region, one was recorded in the Adelaide Hills and one person acquired it interstate..Department for Health and Wellbeing’s health protection and licensing services executive director Dr Chris Lease said two other people in hospital with encephalitis remain under investigation.“This is part of the investigation of those 10 encephalitis cases that we identified previously. We are looking further back to see if there are other cases that we don’t know about,” he said.He said there had been no additional cases of encephalitis requiring investigation.“It does make me hopeful that this might have been contained, but of course, we can’t rule that out.” NED-5713-Japanese-encephalitisHe urged South Australians to remain vigilant and avoid exposure to mosquitoes.“People planning activities around the River Murray are warned to be especially vigilant, particularly between dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active,” he said.Most people who are infected with flaviviruses are asymptomatic or develop a mild feverish illness. Around 1 per cent of infected people will develop encephalitis, which may be fatal or cause long-term neurological damage. Symptoms of encephalitis may include confusion, headaches, neck stiffness, tremors, drowsiness and seizures.Dr Lease said he was particularly concerned for families with young children.“Children can be more susceptible to these types of conditions and given they are in their early stages of development and this infection affects the brain it is quite concerning.Dr Lease said while there are some vaccines available for flaviviruses, personal and household protective measures remain the first line of defence in avoiding mosquito bites.“If you are outside, apply an insect repellent containing DEET or picaridin, and try to stop mosquitoes coming indoors,” Dr Lease said. “Cover up with long, loose fitting and light-coloured clothing. Mosquitoes can bite through tight clothing such as jeans or leggings.

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