Department of Health warn of increased mosquito activity in South West and Peel

The Department of Health has issued a mosquito warning for the South West. Photo is supplied.

The Department of Health has issued a mosquito warning for the South West. Photo is supplied.

The Department of Health is urging people in the Peel and South West to avoid mosquito bites to reduce the risk of mosquito-born disease and transmission.

The warning follows recent detections of Ross River virus (RRV) and Barmah Forest virus (BFV) in mosquitoes from the region via the department's surveillance program.

Department of Health Managing Scientist Dr Abbey Potter said spring and summer were the peak seasons in the South West for mosquito activity and RRV infection in people.

"The warmer weather, combined with persistent water from winter rainfall and tidal activity, has created ideal conditions for mosquitoes over recent weeks," she said.

"As families look forward to spending time outdoors over the upcoming school holidays, many will be traveling to the South West where mosquito numbers have increased.

"It's important to pack an effective repellent and loose-fitting, long-sleeved clothing for everyone in the family to prevent mosquito bites while you are away."

Symptoms of RRV and BFV infection can last from weeks to months and include painful and swollen joints, sore muscles, skin rash, fever, fatigue and headaches.

The warmer weather, combined with persistent water from winter rainfall and tidal activity, has created ideal conditions for mosquitoes over recent weeks.

Department of Health Managing Scientist Dr Abbey Potter

In rarer cases, protracted RRV symptoms have been reported to recur over the years following infection.

"Anyone experiencing symptoms should consult their doctor because infection can only be diagnosed through a blood test," Dr Potter said.

"There is currently no vaccine or specific treatment for either RRV or BFV - the only way to prevent infection is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes."

Mosquito management programs are undertaken by local government authorities in collaboration with the department in areas with a recognised risk of RRV activity.

"But it is not realistic to rely on mosquito management programs alone to control all mosquitoes," Dr Potter said.

"While there is no need to change your travel plans, this is a timely reminder to not become complacent."

Dr Potter said the following simple measures could protect yourself and your family:

  • avoid outdoor exposure, particularly around dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
  • wear long, loose-fitting and light-coloured clothing when outdoors.
  • apply a personal repellent containing diethyltoluamide (DEET) or picaridin evenly to any exposed skin (always follow instructions on the label).
  • ensure infants and children are adequately protected against mosquito bites, preferably with suitable clothing, bed nets or other forms of insect screening.
  • ensure insect screens are installed and remain in good condition.
  • use mosquito nets or mosquito-proof tents camping or sleeping outdoors.

To reduce the potential of mosquitoes breeding around the home, residents should:

  • dispose of all containers that hold water where mosquitoes like to breed.
  • stock ornamental ponds with fish.
  • keep swimming pools well-chlorinated, filtered and free of dead leaves.
  • fit mosquito-proof covers to vent pipes on septic and rainwater tank systems. Seal all gaps around the lid and ensure leach drains are completely covered.
  • empty pot plant drip trays once a week.
  • empty, clean and replenish your pet's water bowl every day.

For more information on how to prevent mosquito bites, visit http://healthywa.wa.gov.au/fightthebite

This story Mosquito warning in South West and Peel first appeared on Bunbury Mail.