Health authorities have confirmed a number of communicable diseases have been detected in insects in northern and central Victoria.
In a warning released on December 8, the Department of Health confirmed Ross River and Barmah Forest virus had been found in mosquitos from the Loddon and Campaspe regions.
Victorian Deputy Chief Health Officer (Communicable Disease) Deborah Friedman said residents in these regions were advised to protect themselves against mosquito-borne diseases as insect numbers increased.
Not all mosquitoes carry diseases - most are just a nuisance, however, some mosquitoes can carry a range of viruses.
Symptoms of Ross River virus and Barmah Forest virus infection can include headache, fever, chills, rash, joint pain and stiffness, muscle pain and fatigue.
Symptoms can persist for many months and it can take three to 10 days for symptoms of infection to occur after exposure, and occasionally up to 21 days.
While endemic across the state, these mosquito-borne diseases occur more frequently in regional riverine and coastal areas and occasionally also occur in outer metropolitan areas.
More rarely, mosquitoes can carry Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV), Kunjin virus and Murray Valley encephalitis virus, which can cause serious illness.
Aside from JEV, vaccines are not available for other mosquito-borne diseases and there is no vaccine available to protect against Ross River virus or Barmah Forest virus.
Clinicians should consider the possibility of mosquito-borne diseases in patients presenting with a compatible illness, especially those who live in or have travelled to rural or regional Victoria.
A blood test early in the illness can indicate potential acute infection and should be repeated two weeks later for confirmation.
There are simple steps to protect against mosquito-borne diseases:
- Cover up - wear long, loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing.
- Use mosquito repellents containing picaridin or DEET on all exposed skin.
- Limit outdoor activity if lots of mosquitoes are about.
- Remove stagnant water where mosquitoes can breed around your home or campsite.
- On holidays make sure your accommodation is fitted with mosquito netting or screens.
- Don't forget the kids - always check the insect repellent label. On babies, you might need to spray or rub repellent on their clothes instead of their skin. Avoid applying repellent to the hands of babies or young children.
- Use 'knockdown' fly sprays and plug-in repellent devices indoors.
- Sleep under mosquito nets treated with insecticides if you don't have insect screens on windows on your home or are sleeping in an untreated tent or out in the open.
- Mosquito coils can be effective in small outdoor areas where you gather to sit or eat.
You can find more information and stay up-to-date with the latest health warnings at health.vic.gov.au