Health alert: flooding set to boost mosquito numbers

Western NSW Local Health District is warning the public to take care against mosquito-borne viruses.
Western NSW Local Health District is warning the public to take care against mosquito-borne viruses.

Residents are being urged to take care against mosquito-borne viruses following recent heavy rains and associated flooding.

The Western NSW Local Health District (LHD) issued a health alert on Tuesday, warning persistent rain and flooding will result in an increase in mosquito breeding, particularly where there is pooled water.

“Whilst being bitten is irritating, mosquitoes can carry diseases such as Ross River, Barmah Forest Fever and Murray Valley Encephalitis,” the health district said.

“These infections can cause symptoms ranging from tiredness, rash, fever, and sore or swollen joints.

“Symptoms usually resolve within several days but some people may experience symptoms for weeks or even months. Infection with Murray Valley Encephalitis can cause more severe symptoms such as encephalitis [inflammation of the brain].”

There has been no increase in the number of reported cases of Ross River Virus, the health district said, but care should be taken in recently inundated areas, the Macquarie Marshes and large bodies of water that are no longer flowing.

Dr Thérèse Jones from the health district’s public health unit has advised residents and visitors to the region to take preventative action to avoid being bitten.

People can protect themselves at home by screening all windows and doors, Dr Jones said, or by sleeping under a mosquito net.

“Mosquitoes are most active at dusk and dawn. If going outside at these times, take precautions such as using a repellent and wearing a loose fitting long sleeved shirt and trousers,” the health district said.

“If you find the repellent you are using does not work, try an alternative preferably containing DEET.

“When mosquitoes are present inside the room, use spray, especially behind furniture and dark places [while] air conditioning, fans and mosquito coils are also effective in protecting yourself from mosquitoes.”

Septic tanks that have been inundated with floodwater will need to be professionally pumped out, the health district said.

For more information, contact the Western NSW Public Health Unit’s Dubbo office on 6809 8967.