NSW Riverina residents are being urged to give blood in a bid to help scientists understand more about the rare mosquito-borne disease that killed two Riverina residents earlier this year.
NSW Health has launched a blood sample survey which will be travelling to the area in the coming months, in light of this year's outbreak of Japanese Encephalitis virus (JEV).
A man in his 60s from the Corowa area and a man in his 70s from Griffith both died after contracting JEV, and 13 people across the state have been diagnosed with the disease since late February.
The blood sample survey will be kicking off in Corowa on Monday and will eventually be conducted in Temora, Griffith, Balranald and Dubbo.
Keira Glasgow, the NSW Health director of zoonotic diseases, said the study could provide valuable information on how many people were exposed to JEV in warmer months.
"Because less than one per cent of people infected with JEV experience symptoms, it is likely people were infected in these areas without even knowing it," she said.
"Now that the weather is cooler, mosquito activity has declined and there is currently little risk of active transmission of JEV, but we still do not know why the disease came to Australia this year during our warmer, wetter conditions."
The results of the blood testing will help NSW Health understand infection rates and give them a clue on how long ago the virus was actually introduced to NSW.
It will also inform the agency on how many people were infected and the behaviours or activities which are associated with infection.
All 13 cases of JEV are believed to have been contracted between mid-January and the end of February.
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For that reason, Ms Glasgow said it was important only people who lived in the five towns between January and March this year take part in the survey.
NSW Health has described JEV as a serious disease and it is feared cases may resurface as the weather warms up in spring and summer.
Ms Glasgow said the samples obtained from this survey will help NSW Health prepare for a potential increase in cases alongside the NSW Department of Primary Industry and the Commonwealth Department of Health.
The dates, times and locations for the Griffith and Temora rounds of the survey will be announced in the coming weeks.
To participate in the study, residents will be required to provide a blood sample and complete a short survey.
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