Mosquito-borne virus prompts warning in Australia

An Aedes Aegypti mosquito is photographed on human skin Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ross River virus is commonly found in Australian rural areas

Australian health authorities have issued a warning after a sharp rise in cases of a mosquito-borne virus.

Ross River virus infected 314 people in Victoria in 2016, nearly a 50% increase on the year before, said the state's chief health officer Charles Guest.

Prof Guest suggested stagnant water from recent heavy rain created conditions ripe for mosquito breeding.

The virus, found in Australia and some Pacific nations, can cause joint pain, fatigue and muscle aches.

Current treatments only target symptoms, which can last for months.

"The best protection from these diseases is to avoid mosquito bites," Prof Guest said in a statement.

What is Ross River virus?

  • It is spread by mosquitoes to humans from infected animals. It cannot pass from human to human
  • The virus is endemic to Australia, Papua New Guinea and some islands in the South Pacific
  • It was identified in Australia in 1963 and named after the Queensland river where it was first detected
  • The only way to fight Ross River virus is to clear stagnant water where mosquitoes breed, and to protect against insect bites

"Protective measures include regularly using mosquito repellent containing picaridin or DEET, wearing loose-fitting clothing when outside and ensuring accommodation is mosquito proof."

Prof Guest urged people to take care during Australia's summer, when they were more likely to be outside.

People in rural and regional areas were particularly vulnerable, he said.

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