Ross River virus risk increases in the Northern Territory

NT Health is urging people to protect themselves from mosquito bites with the months between December and March the high risk period for Ross River virus (RRV) disease.

Director of Medical Entomology, Nina Kurucz, said while Ross River virus disease cases have been low so far this season, an increase in cases could be expected over the next few months due to high humidity levels and increase in the lifespan of mosquitoes.

“While salt marsh mosquitoes usually trigger the start of the Ross River virus season, the common banded mosquitoes are the principal vector, with this species increasing in numbers following the first monsoonal rains. Some receptacle breeding mosquitoes in urban areas can also transmit the Ross River virus,” Ms Kurucz said.

Ross River virus is a debilitating disease, with symptoms including swollen and painful joints and muscles, a red rash, fever, fatigue and swollen glands. While symptoms usually subside within a few weeks, some people experience symptoms for months. See you doctor if you’re concerned about any ongoing symptoms. As there is no vaccine, personal protection from mosquito bites is the best defence.

To avoid being bitten people are advised to:

  • avoid locations where mosquito activity is high, especially after sundown
  • use mosquito-proof accommodation and camping facilities at night
  • wear light-coloured clothing with long-sleeves, long trousers and socks, especially between dusk and dawn in areas where mosquito are likely to bite
  • use a protective repellent containing 20% DEET or picaridin or extract of lemon eucalyptus (PMD) at a concentration of at least 30% as a supplement to protective clothing, with creams providing best protection
  • use mosquito coils, mosquito lanterns and barrier sprays in patio and outdoor areas near houses
  • tip out any water holding receptacles around the yard or store receptacles upside down or under cover to prevent mosquito breeding
  • ensure children and animals are adequately protected against mosquito bites.

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