News

Virus cases jump Worst outbreak for 10 years

by
February 17, 2017

Victoria is experiencing the worst outbreak of Ross River virus in the past decade, with almost 50 people diagnosed in Moira Shire already.

From January 1 to Monday, the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed that 46 cases of Ross River virus had been reported in the shire.

The department said the actual figure could be higher, with unreported or undiagnosed cases.

A department spokesperson told the Courier that the numbers were consistent with what was being reported across the state.

Since January 1, there had been 857 cases of Ross River virus reported across Victoria, 20 times higher than the last outbreak in 2011.

In comparison, during a similar timeframe last year, just 20 to 30 cases had been reported.

Ideal breeding conditions, including stagnant water and warm temperatures, combined with the Murray River floods in October, are believed to be reasons behind the high numbers.

Victoria’s chief health officer Charles Guest has issued a warning for people to take extra care to protect themselves against Ross River, Barmah Forest virus and the potentially life-threatening Murray Valley encephalitis virus.

Symptoms for Ross River virus are fever, headache, aching muscles and/or joints and fatigue.

People experiencing symptoms should seek medical attention from their GP or their local hospital and the onset of symptoms may be from two to 14 days following a mosquito bite.

‘‘Recent rain and relatively warm weather has created conditions ideal for mosquito breeding and we have seen a significant increase in mosquito numbers as a result,’’ Professor Guest said.

‘‘Taking measures to avoid bites is a critical step to protect yourself and your family against mosquito-borne diseases.’’

Across Victoria, enhanced control measures have been introduced with seven councils now able to scale up their activities through additional staff and the purchase of high capacity and specialised spray equipment and vehicles.

Moira Shire Council will receive initial funding of $113000 as part of a $4.6million package to expand mosquito management activities and to help prevent the spread of mosquito-borne diseases.

Prof Guest said the environmental conditions over the next few weeks might continue to provide ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes.

He said simple precautions could help protect against mosquitoes.

‘‘Mosquitoes are at their most active at dawn and dusk, although some species can be present and bite throughout the day.’’

Householders should ensure that insect screens fitted to doors and windows are in good condition.

‘‘Residents are encouraged to wear long, light-coloured loose-fitting clothing and use a suitable insect repellent containing picaridin or DEET as an active ingredient on exposed skin areas,’’ Prof Guest said.

‘‘Mosquito numbers can be reduced by getting rid of stagnant water around the home or campsites.

‘‘Mosquitoes will breed in any receptacle that can hold water, including old tyres, unused fish ponds, unsealed water tanks and pot plant holders.

‘‘As mosquitoes can hatch quickly, water containers around the home should be emptied at least once a week.’’

●For more information on preventing mosquito bites, see the Beat the Bite campaign at: https://www.betterhealth.

vic.gov.au/campaigns/beat-the-bite

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