|Friday, 23 December 2005|
CONDITIONS IDEAL FOR MOSQUITO BREEDING
Wet, warm weather in many parts of the State and the recent release of water into some previously dry forest areas have created excellent mosquito breeding conditions, Victoria's Chief Health Officer, Dr Robert Hall said today.
“In many areas the numbers of mosquitoes are higher than we would normally see at this time of year,” Dr Hall said.
“However, evidence of higher numbers of mosquitoes in particular areas does not necessarily mean there will be increased numbers of people affected by mosquito-borne diseases. Mosquitoes can carry diseases such as Ross River Virus, Barmah Forest Virus and Murray Valley encephalitis and other infections.
“But the sentinel chicken surveillance program - during which chickens are regularly tested for the presence of some mosquito-borne infections such as MVE- has not detected any diseases.
“Traditionally mosquitoes are at their most active at dawn and dusk, but this year there is evidence of increased activity throughout the day in some areas. People should avoid being bitten whenever possible.
“Despite elevated mosquito numbers, the number of human cases of mosquito-borne diseases remains low at present, with only 13 notifications in the past month.
“In many instances, the higher numbers of mosquitoes are a nuisance factor,” Dr Hall said.
Mosquito-borne infections can cause non-specific symptoms such as joint aches and pains, lethargy and headaches. As blood tests are required to make a specific diagnosis, patients living or returning from holidays in mosquito prone areas should see a doctor and request a test especially if these symptoms last for more than a day or two.
Cases of human arbovirus infections such as Ross River Virus and Barmah Forest virus are notified to the Department. The numbers vary each year depending on local environmental conditions. DHS has funded research to see if mosquitoes may play a role in other infections too, such as Mycobacterium ulcerans.
Dr Hall said simple precautions can help protect against mosquitoes.
“To reduce the chances of becoming bitten people in mosquito prone areas should cover-up or use insect repellents when camping, or in their gardens or while at barbecues,” he said.
“Householders should ensure that insect screens fitted to doors and windows are in good condition.
“Visitors and residents should wear long, loose-fitting clothing and use a suitable insect repellent containing picaridin or DEET as an active ingredient on exposed skin areas,” Dr Hall said.
Mosquito numbers can be reduced by getting rid of stagnant water around the home or campsites. Mosquitoes will breed in any receptacle that can hold water including old tyres, unused fish ponds and pot plant holders.
As mosquitoes take about 10 days to breed water containers should be emptied at least once a week.
Farmers can also help eliminate breeding sites by providing proper drainage on their property and by filling low-lying areas which hold excess water.
Bram Alexander, Human Services Media Unit, (03) 9616 8803, mobile 0412 260 811