SOUTH West residents have been reminded to take action against mosquitoes and the risk of viruses.
The warning follows the first detection of Barmah Forest virus, a similar illness to Ross River virus, in the South West.
The health department reminded residents to clean up water-holding containers and mosquito breeding sites around the home to reduce the presence of mosquitoes over summer.
Department acting medical entomologist Dr Peter Neville said the department’s mosquito and arbovirus surveillance program had detected Barmah Forest virus for the first time this season at mosquito monitoring sites in the Geographe region.
“BFV is closely related to Ross River virus, which usually causes far more infections across WA,” Dr Neville said.
“Symptoms of both viruses include painful and swollen joints, sore muscles, skin rashes, fever, fatigue and headaches, which can last from weeks to months,” he said.
“A blood test is necessary to diagnose the infection, and there are no cures or vaccines for the disease. Therefore, it is very important that people take care not to be bitten by mosquitoes.”
Dr Neville said although the initial detection of virus has been in the Geographe region, people living near tidal saltmarshes and seasonal brackish and freshwater wetlands in other coastal parts of the South West are also likely to be at risk in coming months.
“Areas of greatest concern of mosquito-borne diseases including RRV and BFV currently include Perth, particularly suburbs with substantial natural wetlands and bushland, and the South West,” he said.
“While mosquito numbers are greatly reduced compared to last year, we all need to work together to reduce mosquito breeding.”
With summer approaching, it is a timely reminder for residents to minimise mosquito breeding around the home by taking some simple steps to remove or modify breeding sites. Residents should:
dispose of all containers (including old tyres) that can hold water;
stock ornamental ponds with fish and keep vegetation away from the water’s edge;
keep swimming pools well chlorinated, filtered and free of dead leaves;
fill or drain depressions in the ground that hold water;
fit mosquito proof covers to vent pipes on septic tank systems. Seal all gaps around the lid and ensure leach drains are completely covered;
screen rainwater tanks with insect proof mesh, including inlet, overflow and inspection ports;
ensure guttering does not hold water;
empty pot plant drip trays once a week or fill them with sand; and
empty and clean animal and pet drinking water bowls once a week.
People living or travelling in the South West do not need to change their travel plans but should take extra precautions to avoid mosquito bites, such as:
avoiding outdoor exposure particularly around dawn and dusk (and the first few hours after dark);
wearing protective (long, loose-fitting, light coloured) clothing when outdoors;
applying a personal repellent containing 20% diethyl toluamide (DEET) or picaridin to exposed skin or clothing. The most effective and long-lasting formulations are lotions or gels. Natural or organic repellents may not be as effective as DEET or picaridin, or may need to be reapplied more frequently;
ensuring insect screens are installed and in good condition. The use of bed nets will offer further protection;
using mosquito nets or mosquito-proof tents when camping or sleeping outdoors; and
ensuring infants and children are adequately protected against mosquito bites, preferably with suitable clothing, bed nets or other forms of insect screening. Only infant-strength repellents should be used on young children.