Mosquito-borne illness transmission for South Australians is the best in a decade, in line with SA Well being
South Australia’s largest health agency warns that the current risk of local transmission of serious and potentially fatal mosquito-borne diseases in the state is at its highest level since 2010.
According to SA Health, the 2010-11 season was the last time any reported cases of the potentially fatal Murray Valley Encephalitis Virus were recorded in humans in South Australia, the last date being before 1974.
High levels of the endemic Ross River virus were also found in SA residents that year, and the government organization said conditions are developing similarly this season, particularly along the Murray River system.
Andrew Vickers, health protection program manager, said the Bureau of Meteorology’s climate outlook indicated that La Nina conditions, moderate to severe, will persist through at least February.
“”[The current forecast is] a bit weaker than those conditions in 2010, “he said.
“This season we need to give people information on how to protect themselves from being bitten [because] There are no vaccines or cures for the viruses we get from mosquitoes in SA.
“The only way to prevent infection is to keep you from getting bitten.”
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Mosquito hazard probably hanging around
Mr Vickers explained that the state’s mosquito control plan is guided by a hierarchy of responses based on triggers such as climate forecasts and data from surveillance programs.
Level one is a standard risk, level two is medium risk for South Australians and level three is high risk for the transmission of arboviruses to humans.
According to SA Health, bug sprays that contain DEET are an effective way to prevent mosquito bites. (Flickr: Miguel Garces)
SA’s current season started back in September at stage two, as weather forecasts and the discovery of Murray Valley encephalitis and Kunjin virus in a flock of sentinel chickens in Ramco in the riverside came earlier this year.
Mr Vickers said there is potential to improve to level three if a person becomes ill with a mosquito-borne disease.
“Even if we found these viruses in a chicken or mosquito that we catch, that wouldn’t get us to level three,” he said.
“It would give us an elevated level two and increase our activity, but level three requires human cases and that is possible.”
Encourages communities to fight the bite
SA Health is working to assist river councils in monitoring mosquitoes, but said public awareness of mosquito control methods is the first line of defense.
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Mr. Vickers stated that the annual Fight the Bite educational program, which is about to begin, has been allocated more funding this season.
“It’s all about personal protection and tidying up around the house,” Vickers said.
“So prevent mosquitoes from spreading on site, wear appropriate clothing, avoid getting into mosquito-prone areas at dusk and dawn, and use familiar repellants.
“Mosquito bites are more than a nuisance, they can cause disease, and those diseases can be nasty and protracted or potentially fatal.”