Not to understate things, the World Health Organisation says "Of all disease-transmitting insects, the mosquito is the greatest menace, spreading malaria, dengue and yellow fever, which together are responsible for several million deaths and hundreds of millions of cases every year".
Ross River virus (also know as epidemic polyarthritis)
Unsurprisingly Ross River virus is an infection spread to humans through mosquitoes. It is suspected that mosquitoes pick up the virus from local animals, most likely kangaroos and wallabies.
What are the symptoms of Ross River virus? Symptoms can include joint pain, fever and rash on the trunk and limbs. The rash is usually small red spots and lasts 7 to 10 days. While most people recover in a few weeks, symptoms can continue for a few months.
If you're bitten by a mosquito and infected, you may never know as many people don't develop symptoms. If symptoms do appear, it may be 3 days to 3 weeks after you've been bitten by the mosquito.
The most common symptom is painful joints in the fingers, toes, hands, feet, elbow and knees. Other symptoms can include fever, body aches, headache, rash, joint pain, fatigue and swollen lymph nodes. Symptoms can wear off after 3 to 6 months but you should always visit your doctor if you are concerned about symptoms.
Where can the virus be caught? You could catch the virus anywhere in Australia, but is more commonly found in Queensland, the Northern Territory and the Kimberly region of Western Australia. The virus is becoming more common on the edge of urban areas.
When can you catch Ross River virus? The most common time to catch the virus is between January and April and just after heavy rainfall or high tides, when mosquitoes may be more active.
What are the causes of Ross River virus? It's spread when you're bitten by an infected mosquito and this allows the virus to enter the bloodstream.
How is Ross River virus diagnosed? You need to consult with your doctor who will check if you have been in an area with a high chance of infection. If it's a strong possibility, then you will be asked to take a blood test to measure your level of antobodies to the infection which will allow your doctor to diagnose the virus.
How is Ross River virus treated? There is no cure for Ross River virus but painkillers and non-steroidal andti-inflammatory drugs can help relieve the symptoms. Most people will recover within 3-6 months.
How can you prevent Ross River virus? There is no vaccine for Ross River virus, so prevention is important. Mosquitoes live in still water and outbreaks of Ross River virus can occur when and where they breed. These times include after heavy rainfalls, when both humidity and water levels are high.
You can protect yourself against Ross River virus by:
- Staying indoors at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active
- Using insect repellants that contains DEET or picaridin
- Covering up when outside, with light coloured clothing and covered footwear
- Burning citronella candles and mosquito coils
- Covering windows, doors, vents and other entrances with mosquito screens
- Sleeping under a mosquito net
If you also make sure you do not have any pools of still water around your house, that will reduce the number of mosquitoes.
For a full range of mosquito protection and tips to get rid of mosquitoes you can read more here.
Part 1: Dengue Fever
Part 3: Murray Valley encephalitis
Part 4: Barmah Forest fever
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