Japanese encephalitis current situation

9 May 2022

Japanese encephalitis (JE) virus has been confirmed at piggeries in Victoria. There have been detections at a total of 23 properties in the shires of Gannawarra, Campaspe, Moira, Loddon, Wangaratta, Greater Shepparton, Greater Bendigo and Northern Grampians.

The virus has also recently been confirmed in piggeries in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and in a small number of feral pigs in Northern Territory.

The Department of Health can also confirm nine cases of JE infection in Victorian residents.

People are susceptible to the disease if they are bitten by an infected mosquito.

Mosquito numbers are high along many parts of the Murray River and its surrounds, from Mildura to Wodonga. People with increased exposure to mosquitoes may be at a higher risk of infection, particularly people working or living on pig farms, people working or spending time outdoors in these regions. Children aged under five (5) years old and older people who are infected with JE are at a higher risk of developing more severe illness, such as encephalitis. Please visit the Victorian Department of Health website for public health advice.

Agriculture Victoria is working closely with the Department of Health and industry to ensure a swift and coordinated response. Agriculture Victoria is conducting surveillance activities and providing advice and information to farmers, livestock and horse owners. This is part of national efforts across all affected states under the Emergency Response Plan for Communicable Disease Incidents of National Significance.

Nationally agreed movement restrictions have been applied to infected pig properties to reduce the spread of the disease.

JE causes reproductive failure in pigs, primarily stillbirths. Very young piglets that may exhibit signs of central nervous system disease. However, the majority of pigs appear unaffected.

Infection is not spread directly from pigs to people. There is no risk to humans from eating pig meat.

Horses can also be infected from mosquito bites leading often to no symptoms but on occasion can lead to encephalitis – a central nervous system disease which can be life threatening. To date there has been no confirmed case of Japanese encephalitis in horses.

Pig and horse owners should take steps to remove mosquito habitats such as stagnant water and reduce exposure to mosquitoes for humans and animals.

As infection in humans can only occur from a mosquito bite, mosquito control is crucial.

Reports of the disease in other animal species are rare, however there has been a confirmed case of Japanese encephalitis in an alpaca in the Adelaide Plains Local Government Area (LGA) in South Australia. Alpacas, like horses, are considered an end host, where they do not carry a blood infection that will reinfect mosquitoes.

Local government area overview map of infected premises

19 April 2022

View a larger version of this Local Government Area Overview map in a new window.

Below is a map of northern Victoria showing the shires which have positive detections of Japanese encephalitis at piggeries. These shires are Northern Grampians, Loddon Shire, Gannawarra Shire, Greater Bendigo City, Campaspe Shire, Moira Shire, Greater Shepparton City and Wangaratta Rural City.

A map of northern Victoria showing the shires which have positive detections of Japanese encephalitis at piggeries. These shires are Northern Grampains, Loddon Shire, Gannawarra Shire, Greater Bendigo City, Campaspe Shire, Moira Shire, Greater Shepparton City and Wangaratta Rural City.

What to do if I suspect Japanese encephalitis in my animals?

Japanese encephalitis is a notifiable exotic disease in Victoria. If you suspect Japanese encephalitis in any animal, but especially in pigs or horses showing any clinical signs, immediately contact your local Agriculture Victoria staff or phone the all-hours Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.

If you suspect you have Japanese encephalitis, contact your doctor and refer to the Victorian Department of Health website.

Page last updated: 09 May 2022