Saturday, January 16

What diseases can you get from a mosquito bite in Australia?


Living in a rural property abroad PerthMegan Newman has had her fair share of mosquito bites.

In fact, the southern suburb of Karnup where he lives is known for its mosquito pests that come and go, tormenting locals as they breed cycle after cycle in vacant lots and on the nearby Serpentine River.

But what Ms. Newman didn’t know was how debilitating one bite from the wrong mosquito could be.

Then in March of last year, just as the coronavirus crisis was taking over the world, he suddenly fell ill.

“We were building a little feeding shed for my daughter’s horses at the back of the property and that day we were absolutely squashed by mosquitoes,” Ms. Newman said.

A few days later, Ms. Newman said, she “fell like a ton of bricks.”

“My head hurt a lot and I felt so hot and cold like I had never felt before.

“I had sweats, I slept and fell asleep and couldn’t get up.

“My feet, my legs and even my hips were in absolute agony.”

Megan Newman fell ill with both Ross River Fever and the Barmah Forest Virus after a mosquito bite.
Megan Newman fell ill with both Ross River Fever and the Barmah Forest Virus after a mosquito bite. (Supplied: Megan Newman)

Although Ms Newman said she did not initially link her illness to the mosquito bite, her doctor did and tested her for Ross River fever, a mosquito-borne virus that affects around 5,000 Australians each year.

“The first few tests came back negative, but then all of a sudden the local Facebook page started working with people diagnosed with Ross River fever,” Ms Newman said.

A second round of tests confirmed that he had Ross River fever, as well as the Barmah Forrest virus, a similar disease also transmitted by mosquitoes.

In all, approximately six of Ms. Newman’s neighbors were diagnosed with Ross River fever at the same time.

Ms. Newman said that she considered herself lucky to have only been ill for about a month.

“I know of other people who were out of work for eight months because it was very debilitating for them,” he said.

Increased rainfall due to La Niña is believed to be one of the reasons behind the outbreaks at Ross River Fever in WA and other states.
Increased rainfall due to La Niña is believed to be one of the reasons behind the outbreaks at Ross River Fever in WA and other states. (AP)

Newman said her illness had opened her eyes to how dangerous mosquito bites can be.

“It seems like something you can get living in the jungle of Southeast Asia, not Australia. I didn’t know you could get these hot spots here,” he said.

The warning comes as experts predict that the risk of mosquito-borne diseases will worsen with an increase in insects due to the La Niña effect.

Besides Western Australia, other states have also seen recent outbreaks of Ross River fever.

During Christmas, Victoria’s Deputy Director of Health, Dr. Annaliese van Diemen issued a warning for Ross River Fever and Barmah Jungle Virus after cases were reported along the Victoria surf coast, Geelong, the Bellarine Peninsula and areas of northwestern Victoria.
FILE – This 2003 photo provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a female Aedes albopictus mosquito acquiring blood from a human host. (James Gathany / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via AP) (AP / AAP)

Health Protection and Licensing Services (HPLS) said a sentinel chicken, one of five in a surveillance flock based near Meningie, tested positive for both Murray Valley encephalitis virus (MVEv) and Kunjin virus.

“We know that there has been an increase in the number of mosquitoes present along the Murray River this season,” said HPLS Acting Executive Director Dr. Fay Jenkins.

“However, the detection of the MVEv and Kunjin viruses is an even stronger reminder for all South Australians to be vigilant in their fight against mosquito bites across the state.”

Dr. Jenkins said that people infected with MVEv “are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms such as fever, headache and nausea.”

How to avoid mosquito bites

Use mosquito repellent that contains DEET or picaridin

Wear long, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing

Spray insecticides and use mosquito nets around the house

Dump containers that hold water in the backyard

Contact reporter Emily McPherson at [email protected]


www.9news.com.au

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