Ross River virus disease risk warning for South West WA

Residents are being urged to cover up and avoid mosquito bites after South West population found with Ross River virus. Photo by  James Gathany.
Residents are being urged to cover up and avoid mosquito bites after South West population found with Ross River virus. Photo by James Gathany.

The Department of Health has reminded residents and travellers in the South West to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites over coming weeks.

The warning follows the first detection of Ross River virus in mosquitoes for the 2018/19 season, through the department’s routine mosquito and virus surveillance program in coastal parts of the South West.

Medical entomologist, Dr Peter Neville, said that mosquito populations in South West regions covered by the program were generally below or about average for this time of year, but detection of RRV virus in those mosquitoes meant that people should continue to take care to prevent being bitten.

Symptoms of RRV include painful or swollen joints, sore muscles, skin rashes, fever, fatigue and headaches. Symptoms can last for weeks or months and the only way to properly diagnose the viruses is by having a specific blood test.

Dr Neville said that reported cases of RRV so far this season are well below average. However, there is a potential for more people to be exposed to mosquito bites over coming weeks given temperatures are beginning to warm up and people will be frequenting the South West region for Dunsborough Leavers 2018 and the school holiday period.

There is no specific cure for RRV so it is very important that people take care to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes.

“Mosquito management is being undertaken by local government authorities in collaboration with the Department of Health,” Dr Neville said. 

“However, it is not realistic to rely on mosquito management programs alone to control mosquitoes – individuals living in or traveling to the region also need to take their own precautions to avoid mosquito bites.”

People living or traveling in the South West should adopt the recommended approach to “Fight-the-Bite” this season and in particular “Cover up, Repel and Clean-up” by following these simple measures:

Cover-up

  • Avoid outdoor exposure particularly around dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active
  • Wear protective (long, loose-fitting, light coloured) clothing when outdoors
  • Ensure insect screens are installed on windows and doors and remain in good condition
  • Use mosquito nets or mosquito-proof tents when camping or sleeping outdoors
  • Ensure infants and children are adequately protected against mosquito bites, preferably with suitable clothing, bed nets or other forms of insect screening.

Repel

  • Apply a personal repellent containing diethyltoluamide (DEET) or picaridin evenly to all areas of exposed skin.

Clean-up

  • Empty or cover any standing water (including pot plant drip trays, old tyres, other containers) around the home or holiday accommodation to reduce mosquito breeding
  • Screen rainwater tanks with insect proof mesh, including inlet, overflow and inspection ports
  • Stock ornamental ponds with fish and keep vegetation away from the water’s edge
  • Keep swimming pools well chlorinated, filtered and free of dead leaves.

For more information on how to prevent mosquito bites visit HealthyWA.