A person has died in the Top End after acquiring a rare mosquito-borne virus on the Tiwi Islands.

Health authorities say the specific virus that caused the death remains unknown, but it is believed to be either Murray Valley Encephalitis (MVE) or Kunjin virus.

“There has been a case of encephalitis from Wurrumiyanga, where the patient has likely acquired the infection in early to mid-February and has sadly since passed away,” an NT Health spokesperson said.

The symptoms of MVE include severe headache, high fever, drowsiness, tremor and seizures. 

In severe cases, people experience delirium, coma, permanent brain damage or death.

The Tiwi grand final draws thousands of spectators both local and from around the country.(

Supplied: Tiffany Parker


There have been close to 40 cases of MVE notified in the NT since records began in 1974.

Kunjin virus can cause similar symptoms.

Authorities are warning people to protect themselves against mosquito bites by wearing full-length clothing, applying insect repellent and avoiding outdoor exposure during dusk and night-time.

A few people walk down a dirt road with water in the distance.
The Tiwi Islands are a 20 minute flight from Darwin.(

ABC News: Stephanie Zillman


The warning comes just one day before the annual Tiwi Islands football grand final, which attracts several thousand people to the game in the community of Wurrumiyanga, 80 kilometres north of Darwin.

“There have been no further cases at this stage but residents and travellers around the Top End and particularly on the Tiwi Islands should remain vigilant and take active steps to prevent mosquito bites,” the spokesperson said.

“Historically, the coming weeks have proven to be a time frame of concern for transmission of mosquito-borne diseases that can cause severe disease, including encephalitis, in the NT.

“We are heading into a period with a high frequency of long-weekends, and better weather, which sees increased outdoor activities and camping trips where vigilance is essential.”

The spokesperson said people most at risk included campers, infants and young children residing near mosquito-breeding areas.


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