The Ministry of Health is warning residents and vacationers across Western Australia to protect themselves from mosquito bites this summer.
Craig Brockway, acting managing scientist of WA Health, said the number of cases of Ross River virus (RRV) reported to the department has increased in recent weeks and increased significantly around this time last year.
The warning applies particularly to southwest WA – specifically coastal areas south of Perth to Busselton – where RRV is detected in mosquitoes collected as part of the Department of Health’s mosquito and virus monitoring program.
But Mr Brockway said RRV was also active in some parts of the Midwest.
“The recent rainy season rains in Kimberley and parts of the Pilbara mean that the risk of mosquito-borne diseases in these areas will also increase in the coming weeks,” he said.
“With the Christmas season and school holidays approaching, people are expected to travel to these higher-risk regions.
“It is important that both local residents and vacationers take extra precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes in the coming weeks.”
The ministry is working with local authorities to control mosquitoes in areas at recognized risk for RRV activities.
“However, it is not realistic to rely on mosquito control programs alone to control all mosquitoes,” Brockway said.
“People who live in or travel to the regions must take their own precautions to avoid mosquito bites.”
Symptoms of RRV infection – painful and swollen joints, sore muscles, rashes, fever, fatigue, and headache – can last for weeks to months. A blood test is needed to diagnose the infection.
There is currently no vaccine or specific treatment for RRV disease. The only way to prevent infection is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.
Despite the warning from the Ministry of Health, no travel plans need to be changed. However, it is recommended that you take the following precautions to avoid mosquito bites:
- Avoid outdoor exposure, especially at dusk when the mosquitoes are most active.
- Wear long, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing outdoors.
- Apply a personal repellent containing diethyltoluamide (DEET) or picaridin evenly to the exposed skin (always follow 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;
- Make sure insect screens are installed and kept in good condition.
- Use mosquito nets or mosquito-proof tents when camping or sleeping outdoors.
To reduce the potential for mosquito breeding in the household, residents should:
- Dispose of any containers of water that mosquitoes may use to reproduce.
- Stick ornamental ponds with fish;
- Keep the swimming pools well chlorinated, filtered, and free of dead leaves.
- Install mosquito-proof covers to vent pipes on septic tank and rainwater tank systems. Seal any gaps around the lid and make sure the leach drains are completely covered.
- empty potted plant drip trays once a week;
- Empty, clean, and refill your pet’s water bowl every day.
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