18 March 2015

NSW Health is urging people to take extra precautions to protect themselves against mosquitoes following a seven fold increase in detections of the mosquito-borne virus Ross River Fever across the State compared with this time last year.

Director of Communicable Diseases Dr Vicky Sheppeard said it’s the second time this year that NSW Health has issued a warning about mosquito-borne illnesses.

“Autumn is the peak time of the year for these insects to carry such infections so it is also when there is the highest number of mosquito-borne viral infections,” she said.

“So far this year, NSW Health has seen an increase in reporting of people infected by mosquito-borne viruses.

“There have been 539 notifications of Ross River virus infections across the State compared with just 79 for the same period in 2014.

“While all parts of the State have reported cases, residents of the North Coast of NSW have been particularly affected.

“NSW Health’s Arbovirus Monitoring Program has recently detected Ross River Virus and Barmah Forest Virus in mosquitoes in Sydney, including around the Georges River, the Homebush and Hawkesbury areas, as well as a number of other parts of the State.

“These infections can cause symptoms including tiredness, rash, fever, and sore and swollen joints. The symptoms usually resolve after several days, but some people may experience these symptoms for weeks or even months.

“There is no specific treatment for these viruses. The best way to avoid infection is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

“Our mosquito surveillance has found increasing numbers of mosquitoes in many parts of the State. Even more are predicted as a result of high tides together with the recent heavy rains in parts of NSW.”

Dr Sheppeard said the next few weeks – when many people will be spending the Easter break outdoors – will be ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes carrying these viruses.

“It is possible that these mosquitoes will be carrying the even more serious viruses such as Kunjin and Murray Valley Encephalitis,” she said.

“It is particularly important for people planning to take trips during the Easter holidays to be prepared with measures to prevent mosquito bites.”

Simple steps to avoid mosquito bites include:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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