PEOPLE on the North Coast are being urged to protect themselves against mosquito bites to avoid the risk of disease such as Barmah Forrest Virus and Ross River Fever.
North Coast Public Health Unit has warned of an expected seasonal increase in the risk of contracting mosquito-borne disease in the coming weeks and also the Easter holiday period.
Acting senior environmental health officer David Basso said Ross River Virus and Barmah Forest Virus were common on the coast and the diseases caused by these viruses could result in painful or swollen joints, sore muscles, skin rashes, fever, fatigue, and headaches.
The Public Health Unit expects to receive more reports of cases of illness over the coming weeks as the annual April-May peak season for mosquito-borne illness approaches.
“We have had 93 Barmah Forest Virus notifications so far this year which is 75% above the five-year average for the same time period. Ross River Virus notifications are at 29, which is 59% higher than the number of cases we would have expected by this stage of the season when compared to the average in the past five years,” Mr Basso said.
“Cases have been reported from all local government areas across the North Coast but we have seen higher rates of infection in residents living in the Bellingen, Byron, Clarence Valley, Nambucca and Richmond Valley local government areas.
“A combination of late summer rainfall, larger than usual high tides and the warm conditions over recent weeks have provided favourable breeding conditions for mosquitoes. This has resulted in high numbers of mosquitoes at several of our trapping sites and recently the detection of the Ross River Virus in the mosquitoes caught at one of the trapping sites.
“The only way to avoid these mosquito-borne diseases is to not get bitten.”
Strategies that can help reduce chances of being bitten include avoiding bushland, wetlands and swamps – especially at dawn and dusk – or if you do, wear long-sleeved tops and trousers. Always wear insect repellent and around the home, get rid of containers with water in them.