Since the start of the year nearly 200 people from the local health district have been infected with mosquito-borne viruses.
Since the start of the year nearly 200 people from the local health district have been infected with mosquito-borne viruses.

Health threat impacting more people than COVID-19

THERE'S a health threat lurking in northern NSW and it is affecting more people than the coronavirus.

Since the start of the year nearly 200 people from the local health district have been infected with mosquito-borne viruses.

Senior environmental health officer Paul Williamson from the North Coast Public Health Unit said 32 residents were diagnosed with Barmah Forest virus and 153 with Ross River virus since the start of the year.

Mr Williamson said the infection rate was two and three times the number of infections for the same period last year.

He said 119 cases were reported in the past four weeks.

"Mosquitoes have persisted in large numbers through to early autumn, along with the warm weather in recent weeks," Mr Williamson said.

"These infections can cause symptoms including tiredness, rash, fever, and sore and swollen joints.

"The symptoms usually resolve after several days, but some people may experience these symptoms for weeks or even months."

Mr Williamson said it was important for residents to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes.

He said while more people were at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, many were heading outdoors early or late in the day to exercise.

"Mosquitoes are very active at these times so protect yourself from being bitten by mosquitoes when out-and-about," he said.

"Preventing infection with these viruses depends on avoiding mosquito bites, especially as the mosquitoes have become active after recent rain, warm days and high tides."

Tweed Shire Council confirmed there were higher numbers of mosquitoes after more than 1000mm of rain drenched the Shire in January and February.

A spokesman said the downpour caused major flooding throughout the Tweed and groundwater in some places had only just started to dry.

"Adult numbers of mosquitoes have risen due to high tide events and mosquito aerial treatments being called off due to unfavourable weather conditions," he said.

"And also breeding occurring in areas not normally controlled by council's mosquito control program due to the amount of flooding."

How to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes

  • Cover up as much as possible when outside with light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing and covered footwear.
  • Use an effective insect repellent on exposed skin. Re-apply repellent within a few hours, as protection wears off with perspiration. The best mosquito repellents
  • contain Diethyl Toluamide (DEET) or Picaridin. Botanical based products (e.g. eucalyptus, citronella etc.) provide only limited periods of protection.
  • Use physical barriers such as netting on prams, cots and play areas for babies.
  • Repellents should not be used on the skin of children under the age of three months.
  • Check the product label of repellents for recommended age of use. Most skin repellents are safe to use for children over the age of 3 months or older. Some formulations are only suitable for children over 12 months.
  • Use insecticide sprays, vapour dispensing units (indoors) and mosquito coils (outdoors) to clear rooms or repel mosquitoes from an area.
  • Cover all windows, doors, vents and other entrances with insect screens.
  • Remove and prevent mosquito breeding sites around the home, such as emptying containers that hold water.


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