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NSW Public Health Bulletin archive

A review of the epidemiology and surveillance of viral zoonotic encephalitis and the impact on human health in Australia Volume 22 Issue 5-6

Beverley J. Paterson, John S. Mackenzie, David N. Durrheim, David Smith

NSW Public Health Bulletin 22(6) 99-104 Published: 25 July 2011

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About the author/s

Beverley J. Paterson

John S. Mackenzie

David N. Durrheim

David Smith


Human encephalitis in Australia causes substantial mortality and morbidity, with frequent severe neurological sequelae and long-term cognitive impairment. This review discusses a number of highly pathogenic zoonotic viruses which have recently emerged in Australia, including Hendra virus and Australian bat lyssavirus which present with an encephalitic syndrome in humans. Encephalitis surveillance currently focuses on animals at sentinel sites and animal disease or definitive diagnosis of notifiable conditions that may present with encephalitis. This is inadequate for detecting newly emerged viral encephalatides. Hospital-based sentinel surveillance may aid in identifying increases in known pathogens or emergence of new pathogens that require a prompt public health response.