Spring sparks mosquito-borne disease warnings

Emily AceSouth Western Times

South West residents and travellers to the region are being warned to avoid mosquito bites after the detection of the first mosquito-borne disease activity for the season.

Environmental Health Hazards managing scientist Dr Michael Lindsay said the mosquito and virus surveillance program undertaken by the Department of Health had detected Barmah Forest virus for the first time this season.

“The detection coincides with increases in mosquito numbers in coastal areas of the South West linked to the recent warmer spring weather,” he said.

“Notifications of human cases of Ross River virus have also been relatively high over recent weeks in residents of the Perth metropolitan area, indicating that the virus is active.”

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Barmah Forest virus is similar to Ross River virus although is generally less severe.

Symptoms of both diseases include painful or swollen joints, sore muscles, skin rashes, fever, fatigue and headaches which can last for weeks or months.

The only way to properly diagnose the viruses is with a specific blood test.

There is no cure for either virus, meaning it is imperative people take care to prevent being bitten, especially during late spring and summer when the viruses are usually most active.

Dr Lindsay said that mosquito management was being undertaken by local government authorities in collaboration with the Department of Health in areas with a recognised risk of RRV and BFV infection.

“However, it is not realistic to rely on mosquito management programs alone to control mosquitoes – individuals living in or travelling to the region also need to take their own precautions to avoid mosquito bites,” he said.

Planning and development services acting director Felicity Anderson said the City of Bunbury had a “proactive” mosquito management program in place in cooperation with Dardanup and Harvey shires and the Department of Health.

“The City of Bunbury will also continue to carry out a range of strategies to manage mosquito numbers, including trapping at key sites, breeding site monitoring and the on-ground and aerial application of larvicides when required,” she said.

Ms Anderson said people needed to “take precautions” against mosquito bites throughout the city and the wider Bunbury-Geographe region.

“Try and avoid outdoor exposure around dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active, using insect repellent and wearing loose-fitting clothing that covers as much skin as possible,” she said.

“Clean up your yard to remove breeding areas.”

Other tips include applying repellent to exposed skin, installing insect screens, using mosquito nets or mosquito-proof tents when camping and emptying or covering standing water around your home or accommodation.

Residents can minimise mosquito breeding grounds by stocking ornamental ponds with fish, keeping swimming pools chlorinated and ensuring your guttering does not hold water.

For more information on mosquito management, visit www.healthywa.wa.gov.au/fightthebite.

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