MELBOURNE — An Australian man died on Thursday after catching a rare mosquito-borne disease while on holiday overseas.
The Victorian man, aged in his 60s, contracted Japanese encephalitis while on a 10-day holiday in Southeast Asia in May.
He passed away at the Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH), where he spent more than three weeks since returning from his holiday feeling lethargic, on Thursday.
It is believed to be only the 10th recorded case of the disease in Australia since 2001.
Japanese encephalitis is endemic to Southeast Asia where it is common in rural areas. Between 20 and 30 percent of cases of the disease cause a brain infection which ultimately leads to death.
Steven Tong, the doctor who treated the deceased man at the RMH, said that the risk of catching Japanese encephalitis was “vanishingly rare” due to the small number of mosquitoes that carry the disease.
“We don’t have Japanese encephalitis within Australia itself, so it has to be acquired during travel to areas of risk,” Tong told Australian media on Thursday.
“That depends on going to those areas and being exposed to mosquitoes carrying the virus, being bitten by an infected mosquito, and then developing the disease.
“Most figures suggest that for travellers to endemic areas … the risk is probably in the order of one in a million to one in 500,000 travellers to those areas will get Japanese encephalitis.
“Unfortunately this guy was just very, very unlucky.”
Doctors said that man did not have any contact with animals or travel to rural areas while in Southeast Asia but did report being bitten by mosquitoes many times.
Tong said that there was no threat the disease would spread within Australia because the disease breeds in aquatic birds not found in Australia before it can infect a human.(Xinhua)