9 December 2022

Mozzie viruses detected in the Riverina

| Chris Roe
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Man with aerogaurd

MLHD’s Tony Burns says it’s time to break out the repellent. Photo: Supplied.

With the clouds of mozzies currently blanketing the Riverina in the wake of the floods, the Murrumbidgee LHD’s Public Health Unit is urging extra precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

Ross River virus and Barmah Forest virus have been detected in recent mosquito samples collected in traps around Griffith, something senior environmental health officer, Tony Burns said was unusual so early in the season.

“With local mosquito numbers up to 10 times greater than usual in some areas, the detection of Ross River virus and Barmah Forest virus in our mosquito trappings indicates people may be at a higher risk of infection,” he warned.

“Ross River virus and Barmah Forest virus have similar symptoms including muscle pain, rash, fever, headache, joint swelling, and tiredness or weakness.

“There is no specific treatment available for Ross River virus or Barmah Forest virus infection. Your doctor will be able to advise you on treating the symptoms.”

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Warnings also remain in place for Japanese encephalitis (JE) virus, which was detected in pigs on the Murray last month during routine animal surveillance.

NSW Health Executive Director, Dr Jeremy McAnulty said that it indicated that the virus survived the winter.

“Despite the winter season where mosquito populations usually diminish, it appears the Japanese encephalitis virus has continued to circulate along the Murray River, presumably between mosquitoes and waterbirds,” he said.

Mosquito on skin

Ross River virus and Barmah Forest virus have been detected in Griffith. Photo: File.

JE can cause severe illness and Dr McAnulty strongly encouraged eligible members of the community to get vaccinated.

“Now is the right time to vaccinate if you spend a considerable amount of time outdoors, because it takes between two to four weeks following vaccination to develop a protective immune response to the virus.

“I would also continue to urge the community to stay vigilant and take precautions against mosquito bites altogether because, aside from Japanese encephalitis, mosquitoes carry a range of viruses for which there are no vaccines.”

MLHD issued a reminder to take precautions such as applying repellent regularly to all areas of exposed skin, wearing loose, long-sleeved, light-coloured clothing and covered footwear when outside, and mosquito-proofing homes.

For more information about mosquito-borne viruses including Ross River virus, Barmah Forest virus and Japanese encephalitis virus, click here.

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