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Health warning to avoid mosquitoes

NSW Health is urging residents across the state to take extra precautions and protect themselves against mosquitoes following detections of serious mosquito-borne viruses and the recent heavy rains in NSW.

The warning applies to people visiting or living in bush areas in and around Sydney, particularly in regional and rural areas. 

Autumn is the peak time for mosquito borne viral infections and hence people should take steps to avoid exposure to mosquitoes. NSW Health’s mosquito surveillance has found increasing numbers of mosquitoes and of mosquitoes carrying viruses in certain parts of the state.

NSW Health Director of Communicable Diseases Dr Vicky Sheppeard said that the state’s arbovirus monitoring program had recently detected Murray Valley Encephalitis virus and Kunjin virus activity in the Murrumbidgee Local Health District, and Ross River Virus and Barmah Forest Virus in mosquitoes in many parts of the state including Sydney.

She said the next few weeks will be ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes carrying Ross River virus and Barmah Forest virus, and possibly even the more serious viruses such as Kunjin and Murray Valley Encephalitis.

“These infections can cause symptoms including tiredness, rash, fever, and sore and swollen joints. The symptoms usually resolve after several days, but some people may experience these symptoms for weeks or even months,” Dr Sheppeard said.

“While the number of reported human cases of mosquito borne infections have not been very high so far this year, with 116 cases of Ross River virus and 59 cases of Barmah Forest virus notified so far in 2014, case numbers usually rise in the autumn months, particularly with the kind of weather conditions we have seen this year.”

“There is no specific treatment for these viruses. The best way to avoid infection is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.”

  • 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:

http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/Ross-River-Fever.aspx

http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/Barmah_Forest_virus_infection.aspx

http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/Kunjin_virus.aspx