Residents and visitors to the Goulburn Valley are being warned to protect themselves from mosquito bites following record numbers of Ross River virus cases and the detection of the Kunjin virus in a sentinel chicken flock in Shepparton.
In Moira Shire there have been 54 notifications so far this year from January 1 to February 13.
This is compared to three for the same period in 2011.
The Kunjin, or West Nile, virus is in the same family as Murray Valley encephalitis, and can cause mild but more significant illness than other viruses associated with mosquitoes, such as Ross River virus.
The sentinel chicken surveillance program, in which chickens are regularly tested for the presence of a range of mosquito-borne infections, serves as an early warning system for potential human cases.
Victorian chief health officer Charles Guest said no viruses had been detected in the other 12 Victorian flocks this season, but testing continues.
Symptoms for Kunjin virus are fever, headache, aching muscles and/or joints and fatigue.
Kunjin virus is a rare cause of infection, with fewer than 10 cases each year.
‘‘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.
He said the environmental conditions over the next few weeks may continue to provide ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes.
‘‘Simple precautions can help protect against mosquitoes,’’ Prof Guest said.
‘‘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.
‘‘Visitors and 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.
‘‘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.’’
●Information on protecting against mosquito bites is available on the Beat the Bite campaign page on the Better Health Channel at: www.