Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) is no longer a Communicable Disease Incident of National Significance (CDINS). Australia’s coordinated response to the outbreak is being wound back, with states and territories well placed to continue to manage any ongoing risk.
JEV is spread to humans through bites from mosquitoes which have previously bitten pigs and waterbirds infected with the disease. Infection in humans is usually asymptomatic, but on rare occasions it can cause severe illness and even death.
In March 2022, the first JEV outbreak in mainland Australia led to the declaration of a CDINS.
The coordinated national response focused on minimising the public health risk posed by JEV by securing immediate access to vaccines to protect those at greatest risk of infection (more than 125,000 doses of JEV vaccine have been administered since February 2022), raising awareness with health professionals, informing the public about the importance of avoiding mosquito bites, and improving understanding of spread through enhanced mosquito surveillance and control.
Since 1 January 2021, 45 people have been infected with JEV in Australia. Sadly, seven people died as a result. There have been no new human cases identified in Australia since December 2022.
Based on the current epidemiological risk, collaboration across agencies, the maturity of response activities and Australia’s preparedness, the need for a nationally coordinated emergency response has reduced, allowing the CDINS declaration to be stood down at this time.
The Department of Health and Aged Care has worked closely with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, and state and territory human and animal health agencies, to ensure a consistent and dedicated One Health response to JEV.
One Health is the paramount approach to managing diseases that cross the health, animal, and environment sectors.
Lessons from the national JEV response will inform the development of the future Australian Centre for Disease Control’s One Health agenda to strengthen Australia’s capacity and preparedness to respond to similar outbreaks in the future.
While the national emergency response has ended, JEV remains a nationally notifiable disease in humans and animals. States and territories will continue to manage the risk of JEV in line with local arrangements, including ongoing disease and vector surveillance activities.
Australia is well placed to continue to manage the risk of JEV and, while the immediate threat from this outbreak has passed, it is important people continue to take these steps:
- Remain vigilant to avoid mosquito bites and be aware of JEV symptoms
- If you live in a high-risk area, you may be eligible for free vaccination through state and territory vaccination programs
- Contact your public health authority for information on the local risk of JEV and steps you can take to prevent infection.
General information about JEV is available at www.health.gov.au/jev/.