The community is being urged to "be careful" following the detection of Encephalitis on a Tenterfield property in the last seven days.
Hunter New England Health (HNEH) has warned locals to be on the lookout for symptoms of the Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV), and has teamed up with the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) to work on a planned response to tackle the outbreak.
Dr David Derheim, HNEH's Public Health Physician, told the Star that the action plan is currently underway in the region and other areas of concern.
"Mosquito control activities are being carried out in the vicinity of farms where pigs are confirmed to have been infected by JEV and workers on affected farms have been offered a JEV vaccination," he explained.
"NSW Health is working closely with the NSW Department of Primary Industries and other state and territory agencies to determine the extent to which the virus is circulating, through animal testing and mosquito monitoring."
JEV does not present a food safety risk and all Australian grown pork remains safe to eat.- DPI
Until February this year, locally acquired Japanese encephalitis (JE) cases had never been identified in NSW.
A Griffith man in his 70s was identified as the first recorded death from the recent virus outbreak after a post-mortem, dying in a Sydney hospital on February 13.
JEV can cause severe neurological illness with headache, convulsions and reduced consciousness in some cases. There is no specific treatment for JEV.
A viral illness, it can be spread by freshwater mosquitoes, culex annulirostris.
They feed on infected pigs or migratory water birds and can then spread it to people.
"The virus cannot be transmitted between humans, and it cannot be caught by eating pork or pig products," Dr Derheim explained.
He said those most at risk are those working or living on the affected property.
The DPI said the virus has been identified in samples from multiple NSW piggeries in areas with reported high numbers of mosquitos, and has been confirmed in pigs in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia.
"JEV does not present a food safety risk and all Australian grown pork remains safe to eat," a spokesperson told the Star.
Horses and other livestock can also be infected through mosquito bites and NSW Health has issued advice to people in areas with high mosquito numbers to take extra precautions against being bitten.
"NSW DPI has initiated an Incident Management Team to lead an emergency response, in conjunction with other states and territories, and is working closely with NSW Health to minimise effects on industry and the community," the spokesperson said.
Livestock owners are encouraged to be alert to the signs of JE. These include reproductive failure in pigs, with 50-70 per cent losses reported in affected populations:
Nervous signs such as tremors and convulsions are occasionally seen in pigs up to six months of age.
Stock owners who suspect JE in pigs or other livestock must report it to the 24-hour Emergency Animal Disease Hotline on 1800 675 888. More information is available from www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/jev.
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