The Department of Health is warning residents and holiday-makers across Western Australia to protect themselves against mosquito bites this summer.
WA Health’s Acting Managing Scientist, Craig Brockway, said the number of Ross River virus (RRV) disease cases notified to the Department had increased in recent weeks and were significantly up on this time last year.
The warning particularly applies to the south-west of WA – especially coastal areas south of Perth to Busselton – where RRV is being detected in mosquitoes collected as part of the Department of Health’s mosquito and virus surveillance program.
But Mr Brockway said RRV had also been active in some parts of the mid-west.
“Recent wet season rainfall in the Kimberley and parts of the Pilbara means that the risk of mosquito-borne diseases will also increase in those areas in coming weeks,” he said.
“With the festive season and school holidays upon us, it is expected that people will be travelling to these higher risk regions.
“It is important for both residents and holidaymakers to take additional precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes over the coming weeks.”
The Department is working with local government authorities to manage mosquitoes in areas with a recognised risk of RRV activity.
“However, it is not realistic to rely on mosquito management programs alone to control all mosquitoes,” Mr Brockway said.
“People living in or travelling to the regions need to take their own precautions to avoid mosquito bites.”
Symptoms of RRV infection – painful and swollen joints, sore muscles, skin rashes, fever, fatigue and headaches – can last from weeks to months. A blood test is required to diagnose the infection.
There is currently no vaccine or specific treatment for RRV disease – the only way to prevent infection is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.
Despite the Health Department warning, there is no need to alter any travel plans but people 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 the label instructions);
- 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.
To reduce potential mosquito breeding around the home, residents should:
- dispose of all containers which hold water where mosquitoes like to breed;
- stock ornamental ponds with fish;
- keep swimming pools well chlorinated, filtered and free of dead leaves;
- fit mosquito proof covers to vent pipes on septic and rain water tank systems. Seal all gaps around the lid and ensure leach drains are completely covered;
- empty pot plant drip trays once a week;
- empty, clean and replenish your pet’s water bowl every day.