What diseases can you catch from a mozzie bite in Australia?
Living on a rural property in outer Perth, Megan Newman has had her fair share of mozzie bites.
In fact, the southern suburb of Karnup where she lives is notorious for its plagues of mosquitoes that come and go, tormenting locals as they breed cycle after cycle on vacant lots and in the nearby Serpentine River.
But what Ms Newman didn't know was how debilitating a bite from the wrong mozzie could be.
Then, in March last year, just as the coronavirus crisis was gripping the world, she suddenly fell ill.
"We were building a little feed shed for my daughter's horses down the back of the property and on that day we absolutely got smashed by mozzies," Ms Newman said.
A few days later, Ms Newman said, she "came down like a tonne of bricks".
"I got a really bad headache and was extremely hot and cold like nothing I've ever felt before.
"I had the sweats, was in and out of sleep and just couldn't get up.
"My feet, my legs and up to my hips were in absolute agony."
Megan Newman fell ill with both Ross River Virus and Barmah Forest Virus after a mosquito bite.
Although Ms Newman said she initially didn't connect her illness to the mozzie bite, her doctor did, and tested her for Ross River Fever, a mosquito-borne virus that affects around 5000 Australians every year.
"The first tests came back negative, but then all of a sudden the local Facebook page starting going off with people being diagnosed with Ross River Fever," Ms Newman said.
A second round of tests confirmed she did have Ross River Fever, as well as Barmah Forest Virus, a similar disease also carried by mosquitoes.
All up, about six of Ms Newman's neighbours were diagnosed with Ross River Virus at the same time.
Ms Newman said she considered herself lucky to have only been sick for about a month.
"I know of others who were off work for eight months because it was so debilitating for them," she said.
Increased rainfall due to La Nina is thought one of the reasons behind the outbreaks in Ross River Virus in WA and other states.
Ms Newman said her illness had opened her eyes to how dangerous mosquito bites could be.
"It seems like something you could get living in the jungle in South East Asia, not Australia. I didn't realise you could get these hotspots of infection here," she said.
The warning comes as experts predict the risk of mosquito-born disease to get worse with an increase in the insects due to the La Nina effect.
As well as Western Australia, other states have also seen recent outbreaks of Ross River Virus.
Over Christmas, Victoria's Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr Annaliese van Diemen issued a warning for Ross River Virus and Barmah Forest Virus after cases were reported along Victoria's surf coast, Geelong, the Bellarine Peninsula and north-west areas of Victoria.
In South Australia this week, health officials were advising people to avoid exposure to mosquitoes as much as possible after the potentially deadly Murray Valley Encephalitis Virus and Kunjin virus was detected during routine monitoring.
Health Protection and Licensing Services (HPLS) said a sentinel chicken, one of five in a surveillance flock based near Meningie, has tested positive to both Murray Valley Encephalitis Virus (MVEv) and Kunjin virus.
"We know there has been an increase in the number of mosquitoes present along the Murray River this season," HPLS acting executive director Dr Fay Jenkins said.
"However, the detection of MVEv and Kunjin virus is an even stronger reminder for all South Australians to be vigilant in their fight against mosquito bites across the state."
Dr Jenkins said people infected with MVEv "are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms such as fever, headache and nausea".
How to avoid mosquito bites:
- Use mosquito repellent which contains DEET or picaridin
- Wear long, loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing
- Spray insecticides and use fly screens around the home
- Tip out water-holding containers in the backyard
This article was first published here.