Fight bite against mosquitoes this festive season

The Department of Health is reminding residents and holidaymakers across Western Australia (WA) to protect themselves against mosquito bites this festive season, to prevent mosquito-borne disease.

The warning follows recent Ross River virus (RRV) and ongoing Barmah Forest virus (BFV) detections from mosquitoes in the South West, through the Department of Health’s surveillance program.

Department of Health Acting Medical Entomologist, Dr Jay Nicholson, said the South West and Perth Metropolitan regions are currently in the peak period for mosquito activity and RRV infection in people.

La Niña weather conditions are also prevailing for the second year in a row. This may support increased mosquito breeding across parts of WA, particularly in the Kimberley region, where above average rainfall is predicted in the lead up to Christmas.

“With the northern wet season approaching, residents and holidaymakers should also expect an increase in mosquito activity over the coming months”, Dr Nicholson said.

“As families look forward to spending time outdoors over the festive season, it will be important to remember to take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes”.

Mosquito management is being undertaken by local government authorities in collaboration with the Department of Health in areas with a recognised mosquito-borne disease risk.

“However, it is not realistic to rely on mosquito management programs alone to control all mosquitoes. Individuals need to take their own precautions to avoid mosquito bites,” he said.

Symptoms of the debilitating RRV and BFV infection include painful and swollen joints, sore muscles, skin rashes, fever, fatigue and headaches, which can last from weeks to months.

“There is currently no vaccine or specific treatment for these diseases, the only way to prevent infection is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes”, Dr Nicholson said.

“While there is no need to change your travel plans, this is a timely reminder to not become complacent.”

Individuals are encouraged to take the following precautions to prevent mosquito bites:

  • avoid outdoor exposure particularly around dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active
  • wear long, loose-fitting and light-coloured clothing when outdoors
  • apply a personal repellent containing diethyltoluamide (DEET) or picaridin evenly to any exposed skin (always follow instructions on the label).
  • reapply repellent according to the label after swimming
  • ensure infants and children are adequately protected against mosquito bites, preferably with suitable clothing, bed nets or other forms of insect screening
  • ensure insect screens are installed and remain in good condition
  • use mosquito nets or mosquito-proof tents when camping or sleeping outdoors.

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