Corowa and Rutherglen residents are being warned to be vigilant for the Ross River Virus this summer. Above-average rainfall is likely to create the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.
The Ross River virus is transmitted by infected female mosquitoes, who generally ingest the virus when they feed on the blood of infected animals. However, not all mosquitoes carry the disease with just one nuisance.
The potentially debilitating disease can cause joint swelling and pain, fatigue, and muscle aches that can last for many months. A rash and fever may also develop. It takes three to nine days for symptoms of Ross River Virus disease to appear after exposure, and occasionally up to 21 days.
Outbreaks of mosquito-borne viruses, including Ross River virus and Barmah Forest virus, typically occur when local conditions of rain, tides, and temperature encourage mosquito formation.
The disease occurs in most regions of Australia, particularly near inland waterways like the Murray River and in coastal areas.
The last significant Ross River virus outbreak in the area occurred in 2017 and coincided with a weather event in La Nina that caused heavy rainfall during the summer months.
At the end of September this year, the Meteorological Bureau stated that a “moderate” La Nina event was officially underway, increasing the likelihood of above-average rainfall.
Cases of mosquito-borne disease were recently discovered in the Gippsland Lakes area around Ninety Mile Beach and Geelong, which prompted the Victorian government to raise an alarm.
While spring rainfall was above average, local cases of Ross River virus are still relatively low.
Currently in the Murrumbidgee Local Health District, Infectious Disease Manager April Roberts-Witteveen said
To date, 49 cases of Ross River fever have been reported in 2020. During the same period in 2019, 48 cases were reported.
“People who come into contact with known mosquito habitats and live in warm, humid climates near rivers and lakes, and in other areas with water, are most at risk of infection. It is especially important for people who enjoy outdoor activities like camping or fishing to take precautions in areas with high mosquito counts to avoid being bitten, ”said Roberts-Witteveen.
“Cases are more common in rural, coastal and bushland areas than in metropolitan areas. This summer, the number of flooded or swampy areas may increase, with higher than usual rainfall forecast. Outbreaks can occur when local conditions such as rain, tides, and temperature encourage mosquito breeding. “
In Victoria, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) said there are currently no cases of Ross River virus in the Shire of Indigo.
“The inland weather conditions have been relatively dry this summer. However, should heavy rains or flooding occur, this could create ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes. Victoria residents and visitors can protect themselves from mosquito-borne diseases by regularly using mosquito repellants containing picaridin or DEET all over exposed skin, wearing long, loose-fitting clothing outdoors, and making sure accommodations, including tents, are properly covered Mosquito nets are fitted or screens. “
The DHHS also advises the public to follow these simple steps:
When outdoors, cover as much as possible with light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and covered shoes
Use an effective insect repellent on exposed skin. Reapply the repellant within a few hours as sweat protection wears off. The best mosquito repellants contain diethyltoluamide (DEET) or picaridine. Repellants that contain lemon eucalyptus oil also provide adequate protection
Use physical barriers such as nets on strollers, cribs, and baby play areas. Repellants should not be used on the skin of children under three months of age
Use insecticide sprays, steam dispensers (indoors), and mosquito coils (outdoors) to clear rooms or repel mosquitoes from an area
Cover all windows, doors, vents, and other entrances with insect screens
Remove and prevent mosquito breeding sites around the house by emptying containers of water.