WA Department of Health warns West Australians to protect themselves against mosquito bites

Increased risk of Ross River virus this summer

The Department of Health is reminding residents and holidaymakers across Western Australia to protect themselves against mosquito bites this festive season, to prevent mosquito-borne disease.

The warning follows recent Ross River virus and ongoing Barmah Forest virus detections from mosquitoes in the South West.

Department of Health Acting Medical Entomologist, Dr Jay Nicholson, said the South West and Perth Metropolitan regions were currently in the peak period for mosquito activity and Ross River virus infection in people.

Mosquito management is being undertaken by local government authorities in collaboration with the Department of Health in areas with a recognised mosquito-borne disease risk.

"However, it is not realistic to rely on mosquito management programs alone to control all mosquitoes. Individuals need to take their own precautions to avoid mosquito bites," Dr Nicholson said.

Symptoms of the debilitating Ross River virus and Barmah Forest virus infection include painful and swollen joints, sore muscles, skin rashes, fever, fatigue and headaches, which can last from weeks to months.

"There is currently no vaccine or specific treatment for these diseases, the only way to prevent infection is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes", Dr Nicholson said.

"While there is no need to change your travel plans, this is a timely reminder to not become complacent."

Individuals are encouraged to take the following precautions to prevent mosquito bites:

  • avoid outdoor exposure particularly around dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active
  • wear long, loose-fitting and light-coloured clothing when outdoors
  • apply a personal repellent containing diethyltoluamide (DEET) or picaridin evenly to any exposed skin (always follow instructions on the label).
  • reapply repellent according to the label after swimming
  • ensure infants and children are adequately protected against mosquito bites, preferably with suitable clothing, bed nets or other forms of insect screening
  • ensure insect screens are installed and remain in good condition
  • use mosquito nets or mosquito-proof tents when camping or sleeping outdoors.

For more information on how to prevent mosquito bites visit: http://healthywa.wa.gov.au/fightthebite