GREY nomads heading north for the winter have been warned to be
medically prepared and to beware of mosquitoes.
WA's Department of Health is reminding travellers to see their GPs before
hitting the road and to take precautions against being bitten by
The alert follows suspected Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE) and Kunjin
virus activity in the Kimberley and Pilbara.
Three suspected human cases of Kunjin virus disease have recently been
detected in the regions.
Both viruses are only carried by mosquitoes, and while the risk of being
infected and becoming unwell is low, the symptoms associated with both MVE
and Kunjin diseases can be seriously debilitating.
In the case of MVE, the virus can be potentially fatal.
Initial symptoms of MVE include fever, drowsiness, headache, stiff neck,
nausea and dizziness.
The Health Department said that people experiencing the symptoms should
seek immediate medical advice.
In severe cases, they may experience fits, lapse into a coma and may be
left with permanent brain damage or die.
Kunjin virus usually causes milder symptoms than MVE virus, but in rare
cases could also cause severe symptoms, including headache, neck
stiffness, fever, delirium and coma.
Professor: "People do not need
to alter their plans to visit Kimberley or Pilbara regions."
Chief Health Officer Professor Tarun Weeramanthri said people did not need
to alter their plans to visit the Kimberley or Pilbara regions, but must
take simple steps to avoid mosquito bites when camping, fishing or
undertaking any other activity outdoors.
"As there are no specific cures or vaccines for any of these viruses, it
is important to prevent being bitten," Professor Weeramanthri said.
"Travellers and residents should avoid outdoor exposure around dawn and
early evening and wear protective long, loose-fitting, light-coloured
clothing when outdoors.
"In addition, personal insect repellents containing diethyl toluamide (DEET)
or Picaridin should be applied to all areas of exposed skin."
He reminded grey nomads to ensure they take measures to protect their
health, such as maintaining their medication regime and ensuring scripts
were filled ahead of time.
Travellers should see their GPs for a thorough health check and to discuss
any health issues that could impact on their travel plans.
They should also ask for a current list of their medications to take with
them on their holiday.
Professor Weeramanthri said by taking some simple steps before leaving
home, people could help prevent any health-related interruptions to their
holiday – while also ensuring they did not place increased pressure on
remote, smaller health services.
"People can become complacent when they are relaxed and on holiday, which
can sometimes lead to them forgetting their regular medicines and putting
their health at risk," he said.
"It is important to check medication for storage instructions, as the
temperature inside a caravan or car in warm weather may rise beyond the
recommended levels for safe storage.
"Emergency department presentations at health campuses in the north of the
state increase significantly during the winter months as more people
travel to the regions.
"This increase does have the potential to affect patient care, so it is
important that emergency departments are left for emergencies only."
Travellers are also reminded to take regular breaks while driving and to
avoid driving tired.
Simple steps to avoid mosquito bites whilst holidaying in
northern WA include:
* Avoid outdoor exposure around dawn and early evening.
* Wear protective (long, loose-fitting, light-coloured) clothing when
* Apply a personal repellent.
* Ensure infants and children are adequately protected against mosquito
bites, preferably with suitable clothing, bed nets or other forms of
* When sitting outside, use mosquito coils and mosquito lanterns to deter
* Ensure insect screens are installed and in good condition on houses and
caravans and always use mosquito-proof tents when camping.
* If your accommodation or tent is not mosquito-proof, cover your sleeping
area with a mosquito net.
* Reduce mosquito breeding around your accommodation by removing, emptying
or covering anything that holds water.
Tips for older travellers include:
* Remember to pack medications and repeat scripts.
* Ensure medications are stored properly, so their efficacy is maintained.
* Ensure scripts are filled ahead of time, to avoid running out of
* Keep doctor, pharmacy, family and emergency numbers handy.
* Put in place a medication reminder system to ensure medications are
taken on time (this could include setting an alarm) .
* Pack a first aid kit to use to mange small cuts and abrasions.
* Seek advice regarding travel insurance and ambulance cover before