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Six cases of Ross River virus in Melbourne

February 10, 2017
Public Health and Wellbeing

Six people have been infected with Ross River virus in Melbourne amid a state-wide outbreak, sparking a warning from authorities.

The infections were detected in Frankston and Casey, and none of those diagnosed had travelled to areas where mosquitoes carrying the virus are usually found.

There have been 857 cases in Victoria since January 1, a period during which the state would usually expect to see 20 to 50 cases, Victoria’s chief health officer Charles Guest said on Thursday.

Recent heavy rainfall and warm weather have provided ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes , which pass the infection to humans with their bite.

Symptoms include fever, headache , aching muscles and joints and fatigue. Some people will also develop a rash.

While the virus is not considered fatal, in rare cases a person can experience symptoms for more than a year.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said it was rare for the virus to be detected in Melbourne . He did not have historical data, but said one mosquito in an outer-Melbourne suburb tested positive for it in 2009. It was possible this insect had travelled in a car to the city, the spokesman said.

Health Minister Jill Hennessy urged Victorians to cover up with loose-fitting cotton clothing, use repellents and remove any stagnant water from around their homes.

‘‘ If anyone is feeling unwell, we do want to urge them to contact their GP,’’ she said. ‘‘ It’s not necessarily a fatal illness but it is a really uncomfortable one to have.’’

Over the past four months, 18 councils have been battling the spread in Victoria’s north-west and north-east , using fobbing and larvacides.

In January, the Victorian government announced an expansion of mosquito surveillance and control activities to reduce the risks for people.

Ten rural councils were given money for the first time to reduce mosquito breeding, and seven councils already attempting to control mosquito numbers were given additional funding.

However, a spokesman for the Department of Health said none of this funding went to Melbourne councils. He said this may be reviewed in future. Professor Guest said environmental conditions in the coming weeks would continue to fuel mosquito breeding.

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

He said virus symptoms appear between two and 14 days after the mosquito bite, and that there will be many people infected who won’t experience any symptoms.

People may experience chronic inflammation in the small joints of their hands and feet, he said. ’’Sometimes if you’re very unlucky the illness can last for a few months.’’

‘‘ It’s usually a mild infection that can be prevented by avoiding the mosquito bite,’’ Professor Guest said.

The virus is also found in animals .
Copyright © 2017 The Age, Friday, 10 Feb 2017 – Page 11