Skip to main content

Poor long-term outlook for patients with Murray Valley Encephalitis

Media release

Curtin University researchers have determined that long-term effects of the Murray Valley Encephalitis Virus (MVEV) represents a significant medical and social burden in Australia, with a significant number of patients experiencing limb paralysis, depression and other psychiatric conditions following MVEV infection.

Associate Professor Linda Selvey, School of Public Health, said MVEV was endemic in Northern Australia and although rare, cases occasionally occurred in south-eastern parts of Australia.

“MVEV is a mosquito-borne virus that causes Murry Valley Encephalitis (MVE), resulting in an acute inflammation of the brain in some cases of infection,” Associate Professor Selvey said.

“Severe cases of MVE require long periods of hospitalisation which can have significant financial and social costs to both the patient and the health system.

“The cases with the most severe outcomes were those that were complicated by paralysis but our study also highlighted that a number of MVE cases experienced symptoms of mental illness following their infection.

“We were able to demonstrate that clinical MVEV infection in WA has significant physical, mental and social repercussions beyond the reported acute case fatality and morbidity rates.”

Follow-up studies on the closely related West Nile Virus and Japanese Encephalitis Virus have found neurological issues can persist for 27 or more years after the initial infection, with a similar outcome occurring in cases of MVE.

Data on the economic impact of viral encephalitis is limited but the economic impact of cerebral palsy, another disease with extensive neurological outcomes, has been estimated on average to cost $43,431 per person per annum, increasing to $115,000 if the value of lost wellbeing is included.

The study suggests that ongoing assessment and appropriate support, even for mild cases, may help reduce the psychological and social impacts of MVE.

Long term outcomes of Murray Valley Encephalitis cases in Western Australia – what have we learnt?, was published in the Internal Medicine Journal and is available here – http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/imj.12962/abstract.