Everybody in this NSW-Victorian border town wants the Japanese encephalitis vaccine, free or not.
That is the message from Corowa residents according to Jackie Monk, whose husband David Kiefel, then aged 61, became the first person in the region to die from the virus last month.
"Many people would be willing to pay the cost to be safe," Ms Monk said.
"The suffering my husband endured and loss of his life, I would not wish upon anyone."
She said women in particular were concerned for children and what contracting the virus would mean for them.
The virus has been officially recognised an endemic disease in southern NSW.
"The Japanese encephalitis will rear its head every spring and summer," she said.
In her quest for advocacy of the virus, Ms Monk had done her research and got in contact with the worldwide Encephalitis Society based in London.
On Tuesday, Ms Monk was invited to share her late husband's case with Dr Ava Easton, a leading expert on encephalitis patient outcomes and quality of life.
Dr Easton and the society set up Japanese encephalitis specialists early in the outbreak to inform the Australian medical fraternity of diagnosis and treatments through interactive podcasts.
"We have a small but hardworking team that care, and take pride in their work, knowing that we make a difference on a daily basis to those affected by encephalitis," Dr Easton said in a video message."
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Ms Monk hoped by sharing her late husband's case, her efforts would help to increase education among medical professionals and the community of the potentially deadly disease.
"I advised Corowa community members to reach out to me in person, via social media, and literally stop me in the street to voice their concern and anxiety, in particular, the inability to be vaccinated" she said.
Ms Monk believes medics need more knowledge to identify symptoms. "The frontline people need to know what it looks like," she said.
Japanese encephalitis is preventable via vaccines, and Ms Monk said she was advised by Dr Easton that patient outcomes "are poor" once the virus affects the brain and spinal cord.
"The severity of the virus is random, and cannot be predicted by age or health," she said.
Ms Monk, who had an antibody test done through the Corowa District Hospital clinic, said she would push for vaccine availability prior to mosquito hatching season in spring. It was "very important" that Australia adopted the One Health Initiative - a collaborative approach - given the proximity of humans to animals that have been known to contract the virus.
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