Nationals Member for Euroa Annabelle Cleeland is encouraging residents in the Benalla and Strathbogie government areas to take advantage of the free Japanese encephalitis vaccines now available.
Communities in the North-East are particularly vulnerable to the risks of the mosquito-borne diseases, with multiple cases being recorded in the region in 2022.
“This free vaccine is the best opportunity to help protect yourself against Japanese Encephalitis,” Ms Cleeland said.
“Last Summer, we saw quite a few cases reach Victoria, with piggeries and those who work around pigs being the most impacted groups.
“After the October floods made puddles and water build-up so frequent in our region, the subsequent rise in the number of mosquitos increased the risk of infection.
“Although infection from the virus is rare for humans, I still recommend all eligible people take advantage of the free vaccine, while also keeping an eye on their pigs and horses for any symptoms.”
The Japanese encephalitis virus most commonly affects pigs and horses and can cause reproductive and neurological issues for these animals.
Most people with Japanese Encephalitis virus infection do not show or have only mild symptoms – but in extreme cases, it may lead to death or permanent disability.
Symptoms usually develop five to 15 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Symptoms include fever, headaches and vomiting. Symptoms for severe infections can include severe headaches, neck or back stiffness, sensitivity to light, confusion, seizures, paralysis and comas.
Benalla and Strathbogie have been outlined as two of the 20 local government areas considered at higher risk of infection, especially for people regularly spending time outdoors.
The vaccine is set to be made free and available from GPs, pharmacies and local councils. Local Public Health Units for Goulburn Valley will also undertake work to raise public awareness and improve access to the vaccine.
The risks of infection from mosquito bites rises usually between November and March when there is an increased number of mosquitos. To know if you live or work in a higher risk area and for the full eligibility criteria, visit health.vic.gov.au/infectious-diseases/japanese-encephalitis.