Victorian man dies after contracting Japanese encephalitis in Phuket, Thailand

23-Jun-2017 Intellasia | The Age | 6:00 AM Print This Post

A Victorian man visiting Thailand has died from the rare virus Japanese encephalitis.

It it is believed to be only the 10th case of the disease recorded in Australia and the second case reported in Victoria.

The man in his 60s had visited Phuket for 10 days in early May and began to feel lethargic on day eight.

Japanese encephalitis occurs in China, south-east Asia and Indonesia.

Symptoms, which include headaches, a fever, convulsions and focal neurological signs, appear between five and 10 days after being infection.

After returning home he struggled to stay awake and was admitted to hospital a few days later in a confused state.

He was eventually admitted to the intensive care unit, where he died.

It’s believed the man was from Shepparton in the state’s north.

Japanese encephalitis can cause a brain infections and is fatal in about 20 to 30 per cent of cases.

It can cause long-term neurological complications in up to half of cases.

Experts say the virus cannot be passed from person to person.

Although the mosquitoes capable of carrying the virus exist in Victoria, there was minimal risk that the virus would spread because the virus needed to multiply in pigs.

Royal Melbourne Hospital doctor Steven Tong, who treated the man, told the ABC not all mosquitoes carry the virus and the risk of catching it is “vanishingly rare”.

“We don’t have Japanese encephalitis within Australia itself, so it has to be acquired during travel to areas of risk,” he told ABC.

“That depends on going to those areas and being exposed to mosquitos carrying the virus, being bitten by an infected mosquito, and then developing the disease.”

“Most figures suggest that for travellers to endemic areas such as Thailand, the risk is probably in the order of one in a million to one in 500,000 travellers to those areas will get Japanese encephalitis.

It remains unclear how the man caught the disease.

There were no reports he had contact with animals or travelled to rural regions in Thailand, but he had been bitten by mosquitoes a number of times.

The last known case of Japanese encephalitis in Australia was in 2015 when another Victorian man aged 45 returned with the disease after a trip to Bali.

Australians travelling anywhere in south-east Asia should take precautions, including vaccination and the use of insect repellent.

The first ever outbreak of Japanese encephalitis in Australia occurred in the remote outer islands of the Torres Strait in 1995, with three casestwo of them fatal.


Category: Health

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