Ross River virus alert hits region


CASES of Ross River virus have been confirmed in Frankston and Casey, prompting health officers to warn residents to protect themselves against mosquito bites.

Victoria’s chief health officer Professor Charles Guest said the virus had affected six residents and been detected in mosquitoes trapped nearby.

In a worrying sign, the virus appears to have made its own way to Frankston.

“None of the people diagnosed with Ross River virus have travelled to areas where mosquitoes carrying the virus are usually found,” Professor Guest said.

Symptoms for Ross River virus include fever, headache, aching muscles and joints as well as fatigue. Many infected people also develop a rash.

People experiencing symptoms should see their GP or local hospital, he said. The onset of symptoms may be two-14 days following a mosquito bite.

Frankston Council is trying to identify areas that may be the source of the Ross River virus.

“Our Environmental Health Officers will inspect these areas and provide education regarding the management of mosquitoes,” mayor Cr Brian Cunial said.

Cr Cunial said council is working with the Department of Health and Human Services and also Melbourne Water which manages the Seaford-Edithvale Wetlands.

The mayor said council had not been provided with specifics to combat the virus.

“Council’s environmental health unit will investigate all requests from residents regarding possible breeding sites of mosquitoes on both public and private property,” Cr Cunial said.

Professor Guest said recent heavy rain and warm weather had created conditions ideal for mosquitoes to breed.

“We have seen a significant increase in mosquito numbers as a result,” he said.

“Taking measures to avoid bites is a critical step to protect yourself and your family against mosquito-borne diseases.”

DHHS spokesman Bram Alexander said local people affected lived in metropolitan Frankston.

Peninsula Health’s head of infectious diseases Dr Peter Kelley said because it takes time for the symptoms of the virus to show, the actual mosquito bites could be long gone.

“If you notice any of the symptoms of Ross River virus, it’s important to visit your GP to be assessed as soon as possible,” Dr Kelley said.

“But, as with any mosquito-borne illness, the best protection from this disease is to avoid getting bitten.”

Professor Guest said forecast weather conditions over the next few weeks could provide extended ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes.

“Mosquitoes are at their most active at dawn and dusk, although some species can be present and bite throughout the day,” he said.

Insect screens should be fitted to doors and windows and residents are encouraged to wear long, light coloured loose-fitting clothing, and use an insect repellent containing picaridin or DEET as an active ingredient on exposed skin areas.

Stagnant water around the home or campsite is the ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes – such as in old tyres, fish ponds, water tanks and pot plant holders.

“As mosquitoes can hatch quickly, water containers around the home should be emptied at least once a week,” Professor Guest said.

Information on mosquito-borne illnesses is available at the Department of Health and Human Services’ website and via Frankston Council’s website and Facebook page.

Anyone infected by the Ross River virus should visit their doctor.

First published in the Mornington News – 14 February 2017


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