21 November 2016

NSW Health is urging people to safeguard against mosquito bites after a marked increase in detections of the mosquito-borne Ross River and Barmah Forest viruses compared with this time last year.

Stephen Doggett, Senior Scientist at NSW Health Pathology, said recent flooding in Western and Far Western NSW had caused a proliferation in the number of mosquitoes.

“With added swarms of mosquitoes we have detected Ross River Virus and Barmah Forest Virus in mosquitoes in Forbes, Griffith, Leeton, and Moama,” Mr Doggett said.

“Ross River and Barmah Forest viruses are spread by bites from mosquitoes that have fed on animals that carry the virus.

“These 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.

“So far this season, NSW Health has seen 63 confirmed cases of people with Ross River and Barmah Forest virus and expects heightened activity in the coming months.

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

Mr Doggett urged people to take simple precautions against mosquito bites, particularly in coming weeks with weather warming up and many people spending the upcoming Christmas holidays outdoors.

“It is possible that these mosquitoes could be carrying even more serious viruses like Kunjin and Murray Valley Encephalitis, so people should take extra care to prevent bites.”

Simple steps to avoid mosquito bites include:

  • 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 NSW Health fact sheets on mosquito-borne viruses, refer to: