The Department of Health is urging residents and travelers across Western Australia (WA) to take extra precautions to avoid mosquito bites in the coming months and to prevent the transmission of mosquito-borne diseases.
The warning follows the ongoing Ross River virus (RRV) detections in mosquitoes and a recent increase in the number of cases of RRV in humans reported to the Department of Health, suggesting the virus is in the Environment is very active.
The current risk of acquiring RRV is greatest in southwest WA and along the coastal Midwest and Gascoyne regions from Jurien Bay to Denham.
The acting managing scientist in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Abbey Potter said the increased activity is likely due to the prevailing weather conditions in La Niña, coupled with a number of years of sub-par RRV activity in WA.
“RRV moves naturally in the environment between mosquitoes and animal hosts like kangaroos. During an outbreak, infected animals develop immunity to the virus, reducing the potential for transmission in subsequent years, ”she said.
“We have now seen a number of years of below average RRV activity. It is therefore to be expected that fewer animal hosts are currently immune. If low herd immunity is associated with large numbers of mosquitoes and persistent viral activity, we can expect the number of cases of RRV disease in humans to increase. “
“Recent rainfall and increased tidal activity combined with warm weather are likely to result in continued high mosquito numbers in the coming weeks.”
“Mosquito management is carried out by local authorities in collaboration with the Ministry of Health in areas of recognized risk for RRV activities,” she said.
“However, it is not realistic to rely solely on mosquito control programs to control all mosquitoes. People living in the area or traveling to the area must take their own precautions to avoid mosquito bites. “
Symptoms of RRV disease can last weeks to months and include painful or swollen joints, sore muscles, rash, fever, tiredness, and headache. The only way to diagnose the disease is to see your doctor and do a specific blood test.
There is currently no vaccine or specific treatment for RRV disease. The only way to prevent infection is to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes.
Despite the warning, no travel plans need to be changed. People living or traveling in the regions are encouraged to take the following precautions to prevent mosquito bites:
- Avoid outdoor exposure, especially at dawn and early evening.
- Wear protective clothing (long, loose fitting, light-colored) outdoors.
- Apply an effective personal repellent containing diethyltoluamide (DEET) or picaridin evenly to all areas of exposed skin, always following the directions on the label.
- ensure that infants and children are adequately protected from mosquito bites, preferably with suitable clothing, bed nets or other forms of insect repellent;
- Remove water containers from your home and garden to make sure mosquitoes don’t breed in your own yard.
- Use mosquito coils and mosquito lanterns, and apply barrier sprays containing bifenthrin on the patio and outside around houses. and
- Make sure insect screens are installed on homes and caravans and are in good condition.
- Use mosquito nets and mosquito-proof tents when sleeping outside.
Further information on mosquito prevention can be found at:
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