Take care to cut virus risk

Receding floodwaters and pooling water from rainfall can provide perfect conditions for mosquitoes to breed. 

Dr Penny Hutchinson, from the West Moreton Public Health Unit, said this could increase the potential for outbreaks of mosquito-borne illnesses, such as Ross River virus, Barmah Forest virus and now Japanese Encephalitis Virus (JEV).

A public health alert was issued following the confirmed human cases of JEV in Australia. It has now been declared a Communicable Disease Incident of National Significance.

Dr Hutchinson said JEV was a virus spread by the bite of infected mosquitoes and was not passed between people.

She said most human infections of JEV were mild, but the virus could have some serious effects.

“Most people experience no symptoms or mild symptoms, such as headache or fever. However, a person can develop a severe disease and may present with brain swelling (encephalitis), characterised by sudden onset of vomiting, high fever and chills, severe headache, sensitivity to light, neck stiffness and nausea/vomiting.”

Dr Hutchinson said children aged under five years and older people infected with JEV were at a higher risk of developing more severe illness.

“After a person is bitten by an infected mosquito, it can take 5-15 days for symptoms to appear. There is no specific treatment for JEV and treatment usually involves management of symptoms.”

Dr Hutchinson said everyone could do their part to minimise the risk of mosquito bites.

She recommended that people:

  • wear loose clothing to cover arms and legs
  • apply insect repellent before going outside
  • wear closed-in shoes
  • empty containers around the yard that hold water
  • regularly check ponds, rainwater tanks or pools to make sure no mosquito larvae are present, or screen them off.

For further information on how to minimise mosquito risk, visit https://www.health.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0025/713419/dm-mosquito-breeding.pdf