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Murray Valley Encephalitis - Clinical Features and Management

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Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE) is an uncommon but potentially dangerous brain infection caused by the Murray Valley encephalitis virus.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Shubadeep Debabrata Sinha

Published At June 11, 2024
Reviewed AtJune 11, 2024


The Murray Valley encephalitis virus is the cause of the uncommon human disease known as Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE). This infection can be lethal to people and can cause rapid and severe sickness.

Although human sickness from the Murray Valley encephalitis virus is uncommon, it is endemic (constantly present) in northern Australia, which includes northern Western Australia, the upper end of the Northern Territory, and maybe Papua New Guinea.

The bite of an infected mosquito can transmit the Murray Valley encephalitis virus to humans. The majority of infections result in no symptoms at all. A fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, and exhaustion are some signs of Murray Valley encephalitis. Seizures, lack of coordination, disorientation, and difficulty speaking are serious symptoms some people may experience.

What Are the Clinical Signs of Murray Valley Encephalitis?

Most patients experience non-specific viral prodromal symptoms such as fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and a broad macular rash for about a week. Then, neurological symptoms, including disorientation and focal or widespread seizures, appear.

One of four different clinical courses can then be observed when these neurological traits develop:

  • Unrelenting path to death (accompanied by stupor, increasing motor deterioration, and parkinsonism).

  • Significant involvement of the spinal cord (a condition similar to poliomyelitis).

  • Involvement of the brainstem and cranial nerve in tremor.

  • Encephalitis and then fully recovered.

What Are the Symptoms of Murray Valley Syndrome?

Murray Valley encephalitis symptoms include

  • Fever.

  • Extreme lethargy or drowsiness.

  • Bewilderment and headache.

  • Stiffness in the neck.

  • Vomiting and queasy feeling.

  • Shudders.

  • Epileptic bouts).

  • Irritability and floppiness in babies as well.

Many Murray Valley encephalitis virus infections show little to no symptoms at all. Fever is one sign of a mild illness that can occur:

In roughly one in 1000 infected individuals, symptoms intensify, including:

  • Growing sleepiness, headaches, and disorientation.

  • Potential seizures signify a development towards meningitis, an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord lining, or encephalitis, an infection or inflammation of the brain.

What Is Murray Valley Encephalitis Treatment?

  • Murray Valley encephalitis has no specific treatment, and no vaccine exists to cure the illness.

  • When Murray Valley encephalitis is diagnosed, patients are typically quite unwell and need to stay in the hospital for supportive care until they heal.

  • 20 percent or more of patients with severe Murray Valley encephalitis will not survive. About 40 percent of the survivors suffer from long-term neurological conditions like paralysis or brain damage. Some people can still need several months to heal.

  • The virus that causes Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE) is a dangerous but uncommon sickness. Mosquitoes carrying the infection transmit it to people.

  • The majority of infected individuals do not show any symptoms. However, others may get a little illness and recover completely. A tiny percentage of infected individuals experience encephalitis or brain inflammation or swelling. This may result in death or brain damage.

  • For MVE, there is no proven cure or vaccination. Preventing mosquito bites is the most effective form of prevention.

Prevention is better than cure. Here are a few methods to prevent Murray Valley syndrome by maintaining the best defense against mosquito bites:

  • Cover up by dressing in long, baggy garments in light hues.

  • Apply diethyltoluamide (DEET) or picaridin-containing insect repellent to any exposed skin.

  • If there are a lot of mosquitoes around, stay inside more.

  • Eliminate any standing water near the house or camping spot where mosquitoes may thrive.

  • When on vacation, ensure mosquito netting or screens are installed at the lodging.

  • Remember the children and always read the label on bug repellant. Although it may be necessary to apply repellant to a baby's clothing rather than their skin, repellant should not be used on a baby's or young child's hands.

What Steps Should Travelers Take to Avoid Encephalitis in the Murray Valley?

Vaccinations or medications cannot prevent Murray Valley encephalitis. However, travelers can take the following actions to safeguard themselves.

1. Apply an Insect Repellent With EPA Registration.

  • Use insect repellents containing one of the following active chemicals registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA-registered insect repellents are safe and effective when prescribed, even for pregnant and nursing mothers. Always apply insect repellent after sunscreen if one is using both.

    • DEET.

    • Picaridin (outside the US referred to as icaridin and KBR 3023).

    • IR3535.

    • OLE: Oil of lemon eucalyptus.

    • PMD: Para-menthane-diol.

    • 2-undecanone.

  • Tips for Baby and Child Insect Repellent:

    • The youngster should wear clothing that covers their arms and legs.

    • Use mosquito netting to cover baby carriers and strollers.

    • When applying insect repellent to the child, read the label carefully.

    • Products containing para-menthane-diol (PMD) or oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) should not be applied to children younger than three years old.

    • Never use insect repellent on a child's hands, eyes, mouth, cuts, or irritated skin.

    • Adults: Mist the hands with insect repellent before applying it to a child's face.

    • Always apply insect repellent after sunscreen if one is using both.

2. Put on Long Shirts and Long Trousers.

3. Apply Permethrin on Clothing and Equipment.

  • Treat clothing and equipment (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents) with 0.5 percent Permethrin or purchase items treated with insecticide.

  • An insecticide called Permethrin kills or repels sandflies and mosquitoes.

  • Clothes coated with Permethrin remain protective even after several washings.

  • Read the product description to find out how long the protection will last.

  • Carefully observe the product directions if handling products by themselves.

  • Permethrin products should not be applied directly to the skin.

4. Prevent Mosquitoes From Entering the Hostel or Hotel Room.

  • Pick a place to stay with air conditioning or screens for the windows and doors.

  • If people sleep outside or cannot remain in a place with window and door screens or air conditioning, they should use a mosquito net.

5. Take Refuge Under a Mosquito Net.

  • If people are outside or there are no accessible screened rooms, sleep beneath a mosquito net. Indoors is a possible home for mosquitoes, which bite day and night.

  • Before the international trip, get a mosquito net online or at the neighborhood outdoor store.

  • Select a rectangular, white, compact mosquito net with 156 holes per square inch and a length long enough to fit beneath the mattress.

  • Mosquito nets treated with Permethrin offer greater protection than those that are not.

  • An insecticide that kills mosquitoes and other insects is called Permethrin.

  • Follow the directions on the label to find out if one can wash a treated mosquito net.


People can contract the Murray Valley encephalitis virus from mosquito bites. The majority of infected individuals never show any symptoms. The following are possible signs of Murray Valley encephalitis: fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. Serious symptoms like disorientation, difficulty speaking, seizures, and lack of coordination might strike certain people.

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Dr. Shubadeep Debabrata Sinha
Dr. Shubadeep Debabrata Sinha

Infectious Diseases


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