Victoria’s first fatal Murray Valley encephalitis cluster in decades claims third life

The third person to have a confirmed Murray Valley encephalitis virus infection in Victoria in almost 50 years has died of the mosquito-borne disease.

The man in his 70s died early this month, the Victorian Health Department said on Tuesday afternoon.

Authorities believe he may have been exposed to infected mosquitoes in the Campaspe Shire, which takes in Echuca and Rochester in the state’s north.

“We send our deepest condolences to his family,” the health department said in a statement.

“People in areas experiencing increased mosquito activity should continue to take steps to protect themselves against mosquito bites – wearing long, loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing, using insect repellents, removing stagnant water around their home and avoiding the outdoors when mosquitoes are observed, especially at dusk and dawn.”

All three of Victoria’s confirmed cases of Murray Valley encephalitis this mosquito season have now died.

Before the first case last month, a woman in her 60s from the Buloke Shire, there had not been a confirmed human case or death from Murray Valley encephalitis virus since 1974.

Although most people infected with the flavivirus are asymptomatic, and others develop a mild illness, some people can develop swelling of the brain which can lead to brain damage and death.

Given there is no effective treatment or vaccine for Murray Valley encephalitis, the best prevention is to protect against mosquito bites.

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