Its rate of infection skyrocketed in Bendigo during 2017, but the state’s health department says the chance of contracting Ross River Virus – and other mosquito-borne diseases – this summer is low.
Department of Health statistics show there were 80 cases of Ross River in the Bendigo region in the past 12 months, up from just 12 in the previous year – an increase of almost 600 per cent.
That figure jumps to 396 when cases from across the entire Loddon Mallee region are accumulated.
It is thought 7000 Australians contracted the virus in 2017, up from 3735 in the year before.
But a Victorian health department spokesperson said the majority of those infections occurred at the start of 2017, shortly after heavy rainfalls soaked the state.
By contrast, just 11 cases were reported in the past three weeks.
Asked if recent rainfall could see rates of the virus rise again, the spokesman said: “While there was a large amount of rain recently, most of it either soaked into reasonably dry areas and we've not seen large areas of stagnant water, thus limiting mosquito breeding areas.”
The state’s regional development minister, Jaala Pulford, told Fairfax Media councils and the health department had programs in place to monitor and, where needed, reduce mosquito numbers.
“We know mozzies can be annoying, but some can transmit diseases, so Wimmera people need to be extra diligent and protect themselves this summer,” Ms Pulford said.
“Summer is a time of increased outdoor activity so visitors and residents should be taking measures to avoid mosquito bites as a critical step to protecting against illnesses.
“Beating the mozzie bites is simple and there are steps everyone in our community should take to protect themselves and their families this summer.”
Stawell resident Terry Dunn said staggering and limping around was his regular morning routine since he was diagnosed with Ross River virus in 2011 and then diagnosed with a re-infection in 2014.
“It was early September in 2011 when I became aware something was not right health wise,” he said.
“I woke up one morning and my feet were so sore – I couldn’t walk without a walking stick.
“You really do suffer.”
The Department of Health spokesman encouraged people to follow advice listed on its Better Health website when trying to keep mosquitoes at bay.
Steps it suggests include:
- Wearing loose-fitting clothing when outdoors.
- Using mosquito repellents containing DEET or picaridin on exposed skin.
- Trying to limit outdoor activity if lots of mosquitoes are about (usually dusk and dawn).
- Making sure there is no stagnant water where mosquitoes can breed around your home
- Fitting out holiday accommodation with mosquito netting or screens.
Cases of other mosquito-borne illnesses were also reported in Bendigo this year, including chikungunya (three cases), dengue (one case) and malaria (also one case).
- with The Stawell Times-News