Japanese encephalitis was discovered on multiple Australian pig farms in Queensland state earlier this week. It’s the first time the virus has been detected in southern Australia, Australian Chief Veterinary Officer Mark Schipp said in a statement.
The mosquito-borne disease can cause brain inflammation and has infected at least one person, prompting officials to issue health alerts for people working with pigs and horses, Bloomberg reports.
Although serious sickness from Japanese encephalitis is rare and most people display no symptoms when infected, a small fraction may develop serious illness, the World Health Organization said on its website. There are up to 68,000 clinical cases of Japanese encephalitis detected globally each year, causing as many as 20,400 deaths. Most cases are concentrated in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific regions, and some outbreaks have resulted in widespread pig culls.
On March 4, Australia’s health department declared the situation a Communicable Disease Incident of National Significance. Work is underway to plan targeted vaccinations in affected areas, with two different vaccines for protection against the virus on offer in Australia, Bloomberg reports.
Pork is safe to eat. There is no risk of transmission from consuming pork, and the disease cannot be spread from human to human.