Ross River virus warning for South West

The Department of Health is reminding residents and travellers in the South West of Western Australia, including the Peel region, to take additional precautions to prevent mosquito bites over the coming months.

The warning follows an increase in the detection of Ross River virus (RRV) in mosquitoes collected from the South West.

Acting Medical Entomologist Dr Jay Nicholson said that the recent warmer weather had also contributed to an increase in mosquito numbers.

“It is a timely reminder for anyone travelling to the region for the long weekend and school holidays to take extra precautions to prevent mosquito bites,” Dr Nicholson said.

“Spring and summer are the peak seasons for mosquito activity and RRV infection in people in the South West.

“Mosquito management programs are undertaken by local government authorities in collaboration with the Department of Health 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. Individuals living in or travelling to the region need to take their own precautions to avoid mosquito bites.”

Symptoms of RRV can last for weeks to months, and include painful or swollen joints, sore muscles, skin rash, fever, fatigue and headaches. The only way to diagnose the disease is by visiting your doctor and having a specific blood test.

There is currently no vaccine or specific treatment for RRV. The only way to prevent infection is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

While there is no need to alter travel plans to the South West, individuals living or traveling in the region are encouraged to take the following precautions to prevent mosquito bites:

  • avoid outdoor exposure, particularly at dawn and early evening
  • wear protective (long, loose-fitting, light-coloured) clothing when outdoors
  • apply an effective personal repellent containing diethyltoluamide (DEET) or picaridin evenly to all areas of exposed skin and 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 in good condition on houses and caravans
  • remove water holding containers from around the home and garden to ensure mosquitoes do not breed in your own backyard
  • use mosquito coils and mosquito lanterns and apply barrier sprays containing bifenthrin in patio and outdoor areas around houses
  • use mosquito nets and mosquito-proof tents if sleeping outside.

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