Explainer: What is Murray Valley Encephalitis Virus?

Dr Cameron Webb

writer

Dr Cameron Webb

Principal Hospital Scientist, Department of Medical Entomology at NSW Health Pathology, Westmead Hospital; Clinical Lecturer, University of Sydney

Ana Ramírez

writer

Ana Ramírez

PhD candidate, James Cook University

Andrew Francis van den Hurk

writer

Andrew Francis van den Hurk

Medical Entomologist, The University of Queensland

Scott Ritchie

writer

Scott Ritchie

Professorial Research Fellow, James Cook University

Dr Nicholas J Clark

writer

Dr Nicholas J Clark

Postdoctoral Fellow in Disease Ecology, The University of Queensland

Western Australian health authorities recently issued warnings about Murray Valley encephalitis, a serious disease that can spread by the bite of an infected mosquito and cause inflammation of the brain.

Thankfully, no human cases have been reported this wet season. The virus that causes the disease was detected in chickens in the Kimberley region. These “sentinel chickens” act as an early warning system for potential disease outbreaks.

What is Murray Valley encephalitis virus?

Murray Valley encephalitis virus is named after the Murray Valley in southeastern Australia. The virus was first isolated from patients who died from encephalitis during an outbreak there in 1951.

The virus is a member of the Flavivirus family and is closely related to Japanese encephalitis virus, a major cause of encephalitis in Asia.

Murray Valley encephalitis virus is found in northern Australia circulating between mosquitoes, especially Culex annulirostris, and water birds. Occasionally the virus spreads to southern regions, as mosquitoes come into contact with infected birds that have migrated from northern regions.

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Dr Cameron Webb

writer

Dr Cameron Webb

Principal Hospital Scientist, Department of Medical Entomology at NSW Health Pathology, Westmead Hospital; Clinical Lecturer, University of Sydney

Ana Ramírez

writer

Ana Ramírez

PhD candidate, James Cook University

Andrew Francis van den Hurk

writer

Andrew Francis van den Hurk

Medical Entomologist, The University of Queensland

Scott Ritchie

writer

Scott Ritchie

Professorial Research Fellow, James Cook University

Dr Nicholas J Clark

writer

Dr Nicholas J Clark

Postdoctoral Fellow in Disease Ecology, The University of Queensland

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