There are so many reasons Australians look forward to the summer months, but one of them certainly isn’t having to deal with mosquitoes. Recently, Australia has been experiencing heavy rainfall, and as a consequence a growing amount of stagnant water is being collected as we enter the summer season. Unfortunately, this has created ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes, increasing risks for outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases, such as Ross River virus (RRV), Barmah Forest virus (BFV) and potentially deadly Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE).
Australia has seen a big jump in the number of reported cases of mosquito-borne diseases. According to the latest WA Department of Health statistics, the number of Ross River virus cases in the Great Southern region have risen by sixfold. Perth has also experienced an increase in RRV records, with the number of cases having nearly tripled, from 27 in January and February of 2016, to 75 in the same period this year. Similarly, NSW has seen a dramatic increase in the number of reported cases of the mosquito-borne virus. In South Australia, 570 cases of RRV has been detected this year alone! Last year, there were only 69 cases.
Symptoms of Ross River virus include fever, rash, joint pains, chills and headaches, but with no treatment, these symptoms can last months. Murray Valley encephalitis, in particular is another danger with 20% of those who contract it will die and 40% of those who do recover with a will have long-term neurological problems. There is currently no preventative vaccine for Ross River virus, Barmah Forest virus and Murray Valley encephalitis so the best way to reduce the risk is to avoid getting bitten.
Andrew Taylor-Robinson, CQUniversity Professor of Immunology and Haematology and Research Coordinator of Infectious Diseases, has predicted that if the heavy rainfall continues into summer, then Queensland could be faced with “the worst mosquito season in history”. While we cannot control the climate and weather conditions, there are steps that we can take to prevent the spread of mosquito-borne diseases. Taylor-Robinson agrees that in this case, prevention is the best cure, as he says; “mosquitoes have caused more human deaths than any other animal, so don’t get bitten in the first place.”
There are some measures that can be put in place in order to prevent ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes to multiply. Here are a few things you can do at home to protect your family:
- Drain any stagnant water that may be present in containers such as pots, tyres, buckets and roof gutters.
- Keep swimming pools and ponds well maintained and tidy.
- Seal water tanks and have a removable screen mesh fitted to the outlet and overflow pipes.
If you find yourself likely to be exposed to mosquitoes this summer, here are some simple things you can do to avoid getting bitten:
- Check fly screens, windows, doors and vents to make sure they are in good condition to prevent mosquitoes from getting inside.
- Trim lawns and gardens to eliminate areas mosquitoes like to rest in.
- Wear long, loose clothing and regularly apply repellent.
- Plant herbs and flowers that naturally repel mosquitoes such as basil, lavender, peppermint and rosemary.
- You can read more about how you can protect yourself from mosquitoes and our top tips to avoid mozzies this summer here.
As we enter the summer months with an increased risk of mosquito-borne diseases due to ideal breeding conditions, it’s important that the appropriate measures are taken to reduce the spread of mosquitoes and to protect yourself. For parts of Australia, rainfall is only going to continue as summer goes on, so it is vital to be aware of the risks and remember that prevention is always the best approach. While you can’t really do much when mozzies love to bite you, having a good natural repellent and following the steps above to minimise their access to ideal breeding conditions is a great step in the right direction.