The Department of Health is reminding residents and travellers in the South West of Western Australia, including the Peel region, to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites over the coming months.
The warning follows multiple detections of Ross River virus (RRV) in mosquitoes in the South West for the first time this year. The timing is unusual, as mosquito and mosquito-borne virus activity is often reduced in the winter months.
Acting Managing Scientist at the Department of Health, Dr Abbey Potter, said that the unseasonal virus activity is likely to be the result of recent high tides and rainfall, coupled with above average temperatures, favouring mosquito breeding.
“People may not be thinking about protecting themselves from mosquitoes during the winter months. This comes as a timely reminder that there is still a need to be actively preventing mosquito bites,” Dr Potter said.
“Mosquito management is being 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.
Despite the warning, there is no need to alter any 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
- 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
- ensure insect screens are installed and in good condition on houses and caravans
- use mosquito nets and mosquito-proof tents if sleeping outside.
For more information about mosquito prevention visit HealthyWA (external site).