NSW Health is renewing its call for people to protect themselves against mosquito bites when spending time outdoors during the Christmas holidays.
Dr Ben Scalley, Director of Environmental Health, said the December-January period is usually the peak time for mosquito numbers, but this year there has been a marked increase in mosquito numbers.
“We’ve recorded higher numbers of mosquitoes with Ross River and Barmah Forest viruses earlier in the summer season due to stagnant waters from earlier heavy rains and subsequent heatwaves,” Dr Scalley said.
“This is a potent combination for mosquito breeding, resulting in swarms of insects that may carry harmful viruses.
“So far this season, NSW Health has seen 490 confirmed cases statewide of people with Ross River and Barmah Forest virus and expects heightened activity in the coming months.
“Infection with these viruses can cause unpleasant symptoms including tiredness, rash, fever, and sore and swollen joints.
“These symptoms usually last a few days, but some people may experience these symptoms for weeks or even months.
“Murray Valley Encephalitis and Kunjin virus infection are two other rare but serious mosquito-borne infections that can cause symptoms that include severe headache, neck stiffness, sensitivity to bright lights, drowsiness and confusion.
“There is no specific treatment for these viruses. The best way to avoid infection is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.”
Simple steps to avoid mosquito bites include:
- screening all windows and doors to prevent mosquitoes from coming inside.
- avoid being outside unprotected, particularly during dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active. When outside cover up as much as possible with light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing and covered footwear.
- apply mosquito repellent regularly to exposed areas (as directed on the container). Repellents containing Diethyl Toluamide (DEET) or Picaridin are best. Repellents containing oil of lemon eucalyptus or p-Menthane-3.8-diol (PMD) also provides adequate protection.
- don’t use repellents on the skin of children under the age of three months. Instead, use physical barriers such as netting on prams, cots and play areas for babies.
- use vaporising mats indoors. Devices that use light to attract and electrocute insects are not effective.
- when mosquitoes are present inside the room, use over-the-counter insecticide sprays, especially behind furniture and dark places.
- when camping, use flyscreens, or sleep under mosquito nets.
- limit the number of places around your home for mosquitoes to breed by getting rid of items that hold water or by emptying the containers.
For copies of NSW Health fact sheets on mosquito-borne viruses, click on the links below: