What is Ross River Fever?

With mosquitoes back in full force, Angelique Carr looks at what Ross River Fever is and how it can be avoided while you’re on and off campus.

It’s that time of the year again when we are warned over and over about the dreaded Ross River Fever. But what is it? And, more importantly, how can we avoid it?

The Ross River Virus is the most commonly contracted mosquito-borne disease in Australia. It starts life by infecting animals, mostly marsupials like kangaroos and wallabies. When a mosquito feeds on these animals it contracts the virus and then passes it on to humans. In 2016 there were over 500 reported cases of the virus in NSW. Nationwide, there were over 1000 cases this January alone. This is because recent rains, combined with hot weather, has led to an increase in the number of mosquitos.

Experts believe that this virus has the potential to become a global epidemic, much like the Zika virus which caused so much concern during the Rio Olympics. For a long time, it was thought that the disease could only exist where there were marsupials, but new research shows that this might not be the case. This could mean that the virus could move beyond Australian borders if we’re not careful.

The symptoms of Ross River Fever may include fever, chills, a rash, swelling and stiffness of the joints, fatigue, muscle aches, or swelling of the lymph nodes. The symptoms typically last six weeks but could last between a few days or for over two years.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for the virus and those who contract it could see symptoms come back at any time. They usually reappear when the immune system is low, such as periods of high stress. Your GP can prescribe medicine to ease the symptoms, but there is no specific treatment for the Ross River virus. To be diagnosed, you will need to have a blood test done, to make sure that it is not another virus with similar symptoms.

It is easier to prevent the virus than to treat it. The best way to prevent getting the virus is by protecting yourself from mosquitos. Cover up and wear long sleeves and pants whenever practical. Always put on insect repellent. Bottles of Aerogard can be found at the library, in the NUSA building and at Student Central. Stay away from rivers and wetlands in the morning and during dusk, because this is when mozzies are most active.

In your own backyard, you can stop mosquitos from breeding by removing any trash and limiting the amount of empty pots, bird baths, and stagnant water that you have.

If you want to talk to a GP for any reason there are health service available on campus. Click here to make an appointment.

Feature image: AFPMB via flickr, no changes made.