Mozzies on the move

By JULIA ILES julia.iles@dailyexaminer.com.au

AN emerging mosquito-borne virus with the potential to cause sickness for up to a year is affecting North Coast residents in record numbers.

Although not a new ailment, the Barmah Forest virus infection rate is expected to increase after recent rain and king tides, which provide an ideal environment in which mosquitos hatch.

Public Health nurse Marianne Trent is urging people to wear light-coloured loose-fitting clothing when outdoors, especially during dusk and dawn, as well as applying an insect repellent that contains DEET.

"Barmah Forest is not a new virus. It's been around for a while, it causes symptoms such as

feeling unwell, a rash and swollen joints, and although for most it will only last a couple of weeks, in bad cases it can hang around for a year," she said.

"It is similar to Ross River fever."

The number of infections are on the increase, according to statistics from the North Coast Public Health Department.

Average annual numbers of the Barmah Forest virus have almost doubled in the past five-year period from the previous five years.

"On average over the past five years we have been notified of about 200 cases each of Barmah Forest virus and Ross River virus per year, with the North Coast having about three-quarters of the State's reported cases of Barmah Forest virus and about 45 per cent of the cases of Ross River virus," director of the Public Health Unit Paul Corben said.

Research into the virus is continuing at the medical entomology unit at Sydney's Westmead Hospital.

"A large number of mosquitos have been caught and tested for the virus, we have found some are vectors (carriers) and others are found to have the virus," acting senior environmental health officer Geoff Sullivan said.

"We are taking a holistic approach as it is not possible to annihilate all mozzies but we are working to control exposure."



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