The incidence of Ross River fever on the north coast has jumped massively, according to NSW Health, from just 19 cases this time last year to 319 this year.
The department is urging people to take extra precautions to protect themselves against mosquitoes following a seven fold increase in detections of the mosquito-borne virus across the state compared with this time last year.
Paul Corben, Northern NSW Local Health District public health director, 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,’ Mr Corben 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, with 319 notifications of Ross River virus received so far this year compared to 19 for the same period last year,’ said Mr Corben.
Ross River Virus and Barmah Forest Virus can cause symptoms including tiredness, rash, fever and, sore and swollen joints.
Mr Corben said the symptoms usually abate after several days but some people may experience them 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,’ he said.
‘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.’
Mr Corben 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,’ said Mr Corben.
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.
For copies of the NSW Health fact sheet on Ross River virus, Barmah Forest virus, Kunjin virus, and Murray Valley Encephalitis virus go to: