Australia is home to many breeds of mosquito. While annoying mozzies are most prevalent during the summer months, they can be a pest all year round in many parts of the country. Plagues of mosquitoes can greatly affect our enjoyment of our outdoor way of life, biting everyone present when having a backyard barbecue, especially when the sun first goes down in the evening.
Not only are mosquitoes an annoying and irritating pest, but they can also spread diseases from one person to another, or from some other infected source to a person. Around the world, mosquitoes have been the culprit for many different types of illness, some of them fatal.
Let’s take a look at some sickness and diseases that Australian mosquitoes can spread to humans, so we’re aware of the dangers and make an effort to reduce the mosquito population.
Barmah Forest Virus
The Barmah Forest Virus is a disease found only on Australian shores and it is transmitted by the mosquito bite. While this virus is not known to be fatal, a person can become really ill when infected with Barmah Forest Virus.
Here are some symptoms to look out for:
Fever and headache are common to this virus, along with other symptoms like swollen and painful joints, tiredness and lethargy, skin rashes and tender muscles. Interestingly, children who are infected with Barmah Forest Virus may exhibit no symptoms at all.
A blood test is required to confirm an infection with this virus. Medicine is not always necessary as the virus will pass. Often it’s just a matter of managing the symptoms until the patient fully recovers. This could take a few weeks, but some symptoms, such as joint pain, could linger for some months.
When people think of Dengue Fever, they assume it’s only prevalent in some exotic, tropical locations overseas. However, Dengue Fever exists in Australia as well, and its mosquitoes that spread this potentially fatal illness. Usually, the virus occurs in Northern Queensland when an infected person returns from overseas and transmits the disease via being bitten by a mosquito that then goes on to spread Dengue to others.
Most of the time Dengue Fever is not fatal, although occasionally it can be. Usually, an infected person will recover in about a week.
Symptoms to be aware of include headache and severe fever. Tiredness will also be a major symptom, with a distinct lack of energy for at least a few days. Nausea and vomiting can accompany Dengue, as well as joint pain, swollen glands, bleeding nose and gums, skin rashes and pain behind the eyes. In severe infections, stomach cramps may be present, along with confusion, difficulty breathing and blood in the faeces.
Plenty of rest, loads of fluids and taking paracetamol are ways to treat the recovery from Dengue Fever. Seeing your doctor is also highly advised.
Murray Valley Encephalitis
Active in both Australia and Papua New Guinea, Murray Valley Encephalitis is yet another disease spread by pesky mosquitoes. Although it is a rare type of virus, it is a serious one. Strangely, some people exhibit no symptoms when infected with the virus, while others might only present mild symptoms.
In severe cases of Murray Valley Encephalitis, symptoms can include things like a stiff neck, extreme drowsiness, headache, fever, confusion, nausea and vomiting and possibly even seizures. A blood test or a lumbar puncture are the two ways to determine if someone is infected with this virus. Although most patients fully recover, a small percentage can die from the disease.
There is no vaccine available, so it’s important for people to fully protect themselves against mosquito bites as much as possible to prevent infection.
Ross River Virus
Also commonly known as Ross River Fever, Ross River Virus is one of the diseases in Australia most commonly spread by mosquitoes. Although it is found throughout the entire continent, it’s more prevalent in Queensland, the Northern Territory and the northern part of Western Australia. The disease is at its peak between January and April and especially following periods of heavy rainfall in these regions of the country.
It’s a virus that affects some 4000 people every year in Australia. While not known to be fatal, Ross River Virus does cause some uncomfortable symptoms if you become infected. These include fever and skin rashes, along with joint pain and possibly nausea and lethargy. Swollen lymph nodes and joint swelling are also common symptoms.
When a patient is infected with Ross River Virus, symptoms may not even appear until some weeks later, and they can linger for up to 6 months in some cases.
A blood test is used to diagnose Ross River Virus.
Many Australians mistakenly assume Malaria only occurs in tropical locations overseas, but the virus is present in Northern Queensland and can be readily transmitted by mosquito bites. It’s still very rare in Australia, but the point is, it does exist, and Aussies need to be mindful of this as Malaria can be fatal if left undiagnosed and untreated.
Symptoms of Malaria include excessive fever and sweating, yellowing of the eyes and the skin, headaches accompanied by joint pain, diarrhoea and vomiting and possibly severe stomach pain. Symptoms can take almost 2 weeks to become present after initial infection.
If you suspect you might have Malaria, it is vital that you seek medical advice right away. Pregnant women are particularly at risk, as are young children.
Apart from avoiding mosquito bites, you can take antimalarial medication if you plan to travel to infected areas.
No matter where you live in Australia, the best way to protect yourself from mosquito transmitted diseases is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes in the first place. Cover up when out and about at dawn or dusk, install mosquito traps and use insect repellent always. Place screens on your doors and windows to help prevent mosquitoes getting into your home.
If mosquitoes are a persistent problem at your place, call in your pest control expert to help eradicate them.