A WA toddler has become the latest victim of a potentially deadly mosquito-borne disease.
The rare disease, Murray Valley encephalitis, has claimed the lives of two in recent weeks; one in Western Australia’s north-west and the other in the Northern Territory.
two-year-old, from Kununurra, who is now in Royal Darwin Hospital, contracted the disease in the Kimberley.
A 29-year-old Halls Creek-based policeman has come out of a coma in a Perth hospital but is still unable to communicate.
The toddler was in a stable condition.
Constable Ryan Marron, from Albany, has been rendered helpless by the virus which he contracted during a two-week relief stint in the Aboriginal community of Balgo.
It is not yet known if the pair will make a full recovery.
Last month, a man who had been travelling across the north-west became the first person to die from the disease in WA in three years.
A 19-year-old Canadian tourist died after contracting MVE while travelling through the Northern Territory earlier this month.
A Health Department spokesperson said nine West Australians had contracted MVE this year.
Eight had encephalitis, serious brain inflammation, one of whom died and several were ill in hospital.
The department urged people to cover up, wear repellent and stay indoors to avoid catching the virus, which extends to south-central regions of WA.
Department of Health Medical Entomologist Sue Harrington said MVE, closely related to the Kunjin virus, had spread through the Kimberley, Pilbara, Gascoyne, Goldfields, Midwest and central Wheatbelt regions.
“Murray Valley encephalitis virus and Kunjin virus are carried by mosquitoes, and while the risk of being infected and becoming unwell is low, the illnesses can be severe and people should take sensible precautions to avoid mosquito bites,” Ms Harrington said.
“Initial symptoms of MVE include fever, drowsiness, headache, stiff neck, nausea and dizziness and people experiencing these symptoms should seek medical advice quickly. In severe cases, people may experience fits, lapse into a coma, and may be left with permanent brain damage or die.
“In young children, fever might be the only early sign, so parents should see their doctor if concerned, particularly if their child experiences drowsiness, floppiness, irritability, poor feeding, or general distress.”
Ms Harrington said that anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek medical advice quickly.
She said controlling mosquitoes in most rural regions of WA was generally not possible because of the large size and inaccessibility of natural mosquito breeding habitat.