Ross River Fever
Ross River fever is caused by a viral infection, transmitted through mosquito bites. Symptoms include fever, rash, and joint pains. Prevention relies on avoiding mosquito bites.
Last updated: 01 July 2012
What is the Ross River fever?
Ross River virus is one of a group of viruses called arboviruses (or arthropod-borne viruses), which are spread by the bite of infected mosquitoes.
What are the symptoms?
Many people who are infected with the virus will never develop symptoms.
- Some people will have flu-like symptoms that include fever, chills, headache and aches and pains in the muscles and joints.
- Some joints can become swollen, and joint stiffness may be particularly noticeable in the morning.
- Sometimes a rash occurs on the body, arms or legs. The rash usually disappears after 7 to 10 days.
- A general feeling of being unwell, tired or weak may also occur at times during the illness.
- Symptoms usually develop about 7-10 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
- The majority of people recover completely in a few weeks. Others may experience symptoms such as joint pain and tiredness for many months.
How is the virus spread?
The virus is spread by certain types of female mosquitoes.
- Female mosquitoes feed on animals and people. If they feed on the blood of an infected animal, the mosquito may become infected. The virus then multiplies within the mosquito and is passed to other animals or people when the mosquito feeds again.
- The number of infections tends to peak in the summer and autumn months.
- The virus is not spread directly from one person to another.
Who is at risk?
People who are in contact with known mosquito habitats and who live in warm, humid climates near bodies of water will be most at risk of infection. Ross River virus infections are the most common mosquito-borne infection in Australia, and infections occurs in many rural areas in NSW. Infections are uncommon in major cities and towns. Outbreaks can occur when local conditions of rainfall, tides and temperature promote mosquito breeding.
How is it prevented?
Avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. Mosquitoes that carry the virus are usually most active in the hours after sunset and again around dawn.
- When outside cover up as much as possible with light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing and covered footwear.
- Use an effective repellent on all exposed skin. Re-apply repellent within a few hours, according to instructions, as protection wears off from perspiration, particularly on hot nights or during exercise. The best mosquito repellents contain Diethyl Toluamide (DEET) or Picaridin. Botanical based products (e.g. Eucalyptus, Citronella etc) provide only limited periods of protection.
- The stronger the concentration of an insect repellent, the less frequently it will need to be applied to stop mosquito bites. Repellents containing low concentrations of DEET or Picaridin provide shorter periods of protection and need to be reapplied more frequently so it's important to read the product information.
- Cover your clothes with repellent as mosquitoes can bite through material, but be careful, some repellents stain clothes.
- Topical repellents are not recommended for use on children under 3 months. Use of physical barriers such as netting of prams, cots and play areas is preferred. Repellents containing less than 10% DEET or Picaridin are safe for older children if applied according instructions. Parents or carers should apply repellent.
- Note that prolonged or excessive use of repellents can be dangerous, particularly on babies and young children. Avoid putting repellent near eyes and mouth, spread sparingly over the skin.
- Use mosquito coils outdoors and use vaporising mats indoors. Note, however, that devices that use light to attract and electrocute insects have not been proved to be effective in reducing mosquito numbers.
- Cover all windows, doors, chimneys, vents and other entrances with insect screens.
- Sleep under mosquito bed nets at night.
- When camping, use flyscreens on caravans and tents or sleep under mosquito nets.
How is it diagnosed?
Ross River infection is diagnosed by detection of antibodies against the virus in the blood. It usually requires comparison of a blood test taken early in the illness and with another sample taken two weeks later to confirm the infection.
How is it treated?
There is no specific treatment for Ross River virus infection.
Your doctor will be able to advise you on medications that will help ease the discomfort of the symptoms.
What is the public health response?
Laboratories are require to notify cases of Ross River, and other mosquito-borne disease to the public health unit. Public health staff monitor the geographic spread of Ross River virus infections and provide information about avoiding mosquito-dorne diseases.
|Further information - Public Health Units in NSW|
|For more information please contact your doctor, local public health unit or community health centre - look under NSW Government at the front of the White Pages|
|Metropolitan Areas||Location||Number||Rural Areas||Location||Number|
|Northern Sydney||Hornsby||02 9477 9400||Greater Southern||Goulburn||02 4824 1837|
|Central Coast||Gosford||02 4349 4845||Albury||02 6080 8900|
|South Eastern Sydney||Randwick||02 9382 8333||Greater Western||Broken Hill||08 8080 1499|
|Illawarra Shoalhaven||Wollongong||02 4221 6700||Dubbo||02 6841 5569|
|Sydney South West||Camperdown||02 9515 9420||Bathurst||02 6339 5601|
|Sydney West||Penrith||02 4734 2022||Hunter/New England||Newcastle||02 4924 6477|
|Parramatta||02 9840 3603||Tamworth||02 6764 8000|
|Justice Health Service||Matraville||02 9311 2707||North Coast||Port Macquarie||02 6588 2750|
|Lismore||02 6620 7585|