North Coast Public Health Unit director Paul Corben said there have been three confirmed cases of Ross River fever on the Mid North Coast since the beginning of 2017.
Mr Corben said there have been low numbers of Ross River fever cases in the area due to dry conditions during summer.
In contrast there has been an increase in cases of Ross River fever in inland areas of NSW due to very wet conditions earlier in summer.
“This provides an ideal breeding habitat for mosquitoes that transmit Ross River fever and other viruses,” the director said.
Ross River fever is one of a group of viruses called arboviruses (or arthropod-borne viruses), which are spread by the bite of infected mosquitoes.
Ross River virus infections occur in many rural areas in NSW.
“People who are in contact with known mosquito habitats and who live in warm, humid climates near bodies of water will be most at risk of infection,” Mr Corben said.
NSW Health Pathology mosquito researcher Dr Cameron Webb said the virus is an annual concern for residents and visitors to the Mid North Coast of NSW.
Dr Webb said the symptoms associated with Ross River virus disease can vary from being mild to severe.
“Fever, rash, joint pain and fatigue are common,” he said.
Dr Webb said the disease isn’t fatal but can be ‘seriously debilitating’ with patients reporting weeks or months of fatigue and joint pain.
There is no vaccine for Ross River virus and there is no cure for the disease.
Dr Webb advises the best way to prevent falling ill is to prevent mosquito bites.
“Covering up with long sleeved shirts and pants will help and using insect repellent,” he said.
“Pick a product that contains DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus as these are safe and effective repellents that will provide the longest lasting protection.”
People should also prevent mosquitoes from breeding in their backyard by emptying water containers, cleaning gutters and ensuring rainwater tanks are fully screened.
For more information about Ross River fever visit http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/ross-river-fever.aspx
- By Liz Langdale