Avoid mosquito bites this summer

AS we head into summer and towards peak Ross River virus season, Queenslanders are reminded to protect themselves against mosquito bites as much as possible.

Queensland Health’s acting deputy director-general and chief medical officer Professor Keith McNeil said Ross River virus infections accounted for the largest number of human mosquito-borne disease notifications in Queensland.

“If you’re enjoying the great outdoors this summer to play sport, go for bushwalks, catch up on gardening or even hosting a backyard barbecue, you need to be aware of mosquitoes,” Professor McNeil said.

“Biting can be experienced at any time of day but some species are most active at dusk and dawn.

“Measures to prevent mosquito bites include regularly applying insect repellent, wearing loose light-coloured clothing to cover up arms, legs and feet, and using other insecticide-based mosquito control devices where possible.

“Around your home, you should empty containers holding water at least weekly and ensure flyscreens are in good order so mosquitoes can’t enter your home easily.

“There’s no vaccine or specific antiviral treatment available for Ross River virus, so it’s important you take steps to avoid infection as much as possible.

“Symptoms may include fever, swollen and painful joints, and rash, which can be managed to ease discomfort.

“While most people recover in a few weeks, some people experience joint pain and fatigue for months after infection,” Professor McNeil said.

Ross River virus can be found in more than 40 different species of mosquitos across Australia.

The virus is spread from infected mosquitoes to humans. However, it’s not directly contagious and doesn’t spread from person to person.

Mosquitoes get the virus from biting an infected animal. It is then spread to humans when they get bitten by an infected mosquito.

Professor McNeil said Ross River virus rates had fluctuated over the past two years, while malaria and dengue rates declined, in part due to public health measures introduced during the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a varied impact on mosquito-borne disease epidemiology in Queensland but the need for personal protective measures together with mosquito surveillance and control remains unchanged,” Professor McNeil said.

“Cases of Ross River virus increased in 2020. Rates rose to the highest levels in five years last year, with the majority of cases occurring in South East Queensland,” he said.