Deadly Mosquitoes Proliferating In Australian Region

by Gopalan on  March 23, 2009 at 6:46 PM Tropical Disease News   - G J E 4
 Deadly Mosquitoes Proliferating In Australian Region
Deadly mosquitoes are proliferating in Northern Territory, Australia. One man has already died of encephalitis.

Meantime the Territory's senior medical entomologist, Peter Whelan, has warned it is impossible to control them in the rural areas around Darwin, the capital of the region.

Mr. Whelan, attached to the Darwin's Centre for Disease Control told ABC News, "We can't spray - the rural area is huge.

"We've got swamps all over the Top End of the Northern Territory right down to Katherine.

"There's no way that we can spray all these mosquitoes' breeding areas."

Mango farmer Theofilis Maglis, 58, died on Friday from brain failure after contracting Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE) at his home in Batchelor in rural Darwin.

He went into a coma two weeks before his death but the Northern Territory Health Department issued a warning only on the day that his wife made the gut-wrenching decision to turn off his life support.

"I don't know why they didn't do it earlier," said Jude Maglis.

"I'm quite confused and a bit sort of angry. I think people should be told when it happens rather than after his death ...

"We need to get the message out, it's deadly."

About one person in 1,000 bitten by infected mosquitoes contracts MVE.

One in four of those bitten die from the infection.

Initial symptoms of the virus include fever, drowsiness, headache, stiff neck, nausea and dizziness.

There is tremor and seizures especially in young children, with the virus in some cases progressing to delirium and coma, leading to paralysis or brain damage.

"He was pouring sweat off him, just terribly unwell. He didn't really know what he was doing," Ms Maglis said.

"He was incredibly fit and healthy and strong - a little ball of energy."

Ms Maglis said their 13-year-old son - who had his birthday on Monday - was still coming to terms with his loss.

"We're putting it on hold and when we get big and strong again we'll have a party," she said.

"He's in shock like the rest of us, poor little thing ... he loves his dad dearly."

Top End communities are now being warned to cover up, with doctors saying there is little they can do to help people infected with MVE.

The deadly virus killed a man in Western Australia last year and a young child from WA's north is currently sick with the condition.

Mr Maglis' death is the first from MVE in the Darwin region for almost a decade.

While such fatalities are rare, doctors say people must cover up and avoid being bitten because there's no specific treatment for MVE, which is transmitted by the common banded mosquito.

"All we can do is support them ... get them fluids and food, maintain their vital functions," Royal Darwin Hospital neurologist Dr Jim Burrow told reporters on Monday.

"We just observe and see what happens. People, if they are going to recover or improve, tend to do so fairly quickly."

Earlier this month, MVE spread south from the Kimberley, where it caused a death last year, to areas of the Pilbara affected by weeks of flooding.

In the past 30 years only 20 people in the Territory have contracted the disease and Dr Burrow said people should not panic.

"It is a rare condition," he said.

"(But) there does appear to be little epidemics of it over the years."

Testing of chickens last week at Darwin's Berrimah Veterinary Laboratories confirmed the virus was present in the rural suburbs, as well as the Katherine and Barkly regions.

Source: Medindia

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