Record number of mosquito-borne viruses in Murrumbidgee region

A record number of mosquito-borne virus infections have prompted public health officials to warn Riverina residents to take extra precautions.

Almost 150 cases of Ross River Virus were reported to Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD) in January, up from 116 in December.

More concerning was a case of Kunjin Virus, closely related to West Nile Virus, found in mosquitoes in Griffith this week.

“This is significantly higher number of notifications than we usually see in January,” MLHD public health director Tracey Oakman said.

“There is a heightened risk to people in the region of contracting one of the arboviruses if they are bitten by a mosquito.

Mrs Oakman said over the season she had received notification of a number of different arboviruses detected in mosquitoes, including Ross River Virus, Barmah Forest Virus, Kunjin and Sindbis Virus.

These mosquito-borne viruses are spread by bites from mosquitoes that have fed on animals that carry the virus.

The viruses are not fatal to humans but they can cause persistent and debilitating symptoms such as joint aches and pains, fever, chills, headache and sometimes a rash.

“The rash usually disappears after seven to ten days, but some people may experience these symptoms for weeks or even months,” Mrs Oakman said.

“People should take simple precautions against mosquito bites.”

Ways to avoid a nasty mozzie bite:

  • Screening all windows and doors to prevent mosquitoes from coming inside.
  • Avoid being outside unprotected, particularly during dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active. When outside cover up as much as possible with light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing and covered footwear.
  • Apply mosquito repellent regularly to exposed areas (as directed on the container). Repellents containing Diethyl Toluamide (DEET) or Picaridin are best. Repellents containing oil of lemon eucalyptus or p-Menthane-3.8-diol (PMD) also provides adequate protection.
  • Don’t use repellents on the skin of children under the age of three months. Instead use physical barriers such as netting on prams, cots and play areas for babies.
  • Light mosquito coils or use vaporising mats indoors. Devices that use light to attract and electrocute insects are not effective.
  • When mosquitoes are present inside the room, use over-the-counter insecticide sprays, especially behind furniture and dark places.
  • When camping, use flyscreens, or sleep under mosquito nets.
  • Limit the number of places around your home for mosquitoes to breed by getting rid of items that hold water or by emptying the containers.

For copies of NSW Health fact sheets on mosquito-borne viruses, click on the links below:

• Ross River Virus

• Barmah Forest Virus

• Kunjin Virus

• Murray Valley Encephalitis