This summer could be a bit of a shocker for mozzies according to Hunter New England Health, which is urging people to take precautions as a wet, warm season approaches.
Public health unit director Dr David Durrheim says good rainfall in the lead up to summer has provided excellent breeding conditions for the mosquitoes responsible for spreading Ross River virus and Barmah Forest virus.
He advised the only way to prevent infection was to avoid being bitten.
"These viruses are spread by mosquitoes that feed on animals that have the infection, so prevention depends on avoiding mosquito bites, especially in summer and autumn months when infections peak," Dr Durrheim said.
"The symptoms of Ross River virus and Barmah Forest virus infection include fever, skin rash, painful joints and tiredness.
"Most people affected will have a mild illness that lasts for a few days.
"However, in some people, aching joints and lethargy can last for months."
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Dr Durrheim said parents should try to keep their children inside during high-risk feeding times around dawn and dusk.
He also advised parents to be cautious when using insect repellents on their kids.
"Roll-on repellents are preferable to sprays and should be applied sparingly to exposed skin," Dr Durrheim said.
"Don't use repellents on cuts, wounds or irritated skin and don't apply them to areas near the eyes or mouth or to the hands or fingers of young children.
"Always store repellents out of the reach of children and when returning indoors, wash any repellent off with soap and water."
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Dr Durrheim advised the following simple steps 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. Repellents containing oil of lemon eucalyptus also provide adequate 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 three 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 by emptying containers that hold water.
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