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Deadly mosquito virus spreads in Western Australia

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One person has died and several others are very ill across the northern and central regions of Western Australia after contracting a virus associated with mosquito bites.

The WA Department of Health says six people have been diagnosed with Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE), a serious inflammation of the brain, and is warning people travelling anywhere north or east of Perth to be vigilant.

The warning follows an advisory issued in April about MVE and the closely-related Kunjin virus in the Midwest, Wheatbelt and Goldfields regions.

Medical entomologist Sue Harrington says activity of the rare but potentially fatal MVE and Kunjin viruses has been detected in the Kimberley, Pilbara, Gascoyne, Goldfields, Midwest and central Wheatbelt regions, indicating virus activity was widespread.

"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 included fever, drowsiness, headache, a stiff neck, nausea and dizziness, she said.

In severe cases, people may experience fits, lapse into a coma, and may be left with permanent brain damage or die.

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