Ross River Virus numbers prompt reminder to cover up

An increase in the detection of Ross River Virus in the South West by the Department of Health has prompted a reminder to take additional precautions to prevent mosquito bites over coming months.

Acting Medical Entomologist Dr Jay Nicholson said recent warmer weather had also contributed to an increase in mosquito numbers.

It was a timely reminder given the long weekend and school holidays when people were more likely to be outside.

“Spring and summer are the peak seasons for mosquito activity and RRV infection in people in the South West,” Dr Nicholson said.

The Shire of Dardanup is part of a co-operative with the Shire of Harvey and the City of Bunbury known as the “Leschenault CLAG” (Contiguous Local Authorities Group).

The CLAG pools it’s financial and material resources to ensure the greatest impact in reducing mosquito numbers. The CLAG also receives support from the Department of Health in the way of funding, provision of a helicopter for aerial bombardment of mosquito-breeding wetlands, research and technical support.

Environmental Health Officers conduct treatment of mosquito-breeding water-bodies on public land.

“However, it is not realistic to rely on mosquito management programs alone to control all mosquitoes. Individuals living in or travelling to the region need to take their own precautions to avoid mosquito bites,” Dr Nicholson said.

Symptoms of RRV can last for weeks to months, and include painful or swollen joints, sore muscles, skin rash, fever, fatigue and headaches. The only way to diagnose the disease is by visiting your doctor and having a specific blood test.

There is currently no vaccine or specific treatment for RRV. The only way to prevent infection is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

While there is no need to alter travel plans to the South West, individuals living or traveling in the region are encouraged to take the following precautions to prevent mosquito bites:

  • avoid outdoor exposure, particularly at dawn and early evening
  • wear protective (long, loose-fitting, light-coloured) clothing when outdoors
  • apply an effective personal repellent containing diethyltoluamide (DEET) or picaridin evenly to all areas of exposed skin and always follow the label instructions
  • ensure infants and children are adequately protected against mosquito bites, preferably with suitable clothing, bed nets or other forms of insect screening
  • ensure insect screens are installed and in good condition on houses and caravans
  • remove water holding containers from around the home and garden to ensure mosquitoes do not breed in your own backyard
  • use mosquito coils and mosquito lanterns and apply barrier sprays containing bifenthrin in patio and outdoor areas around houses
  • use mosquito nets and mosquito-proof tents if sleeping outside.

Visit HealthyWA  for more information about mosquito prevention.