Ross River virus prevalence has increased 7 fold this year in Australia, from 80 cases last year, to 570 this year in the same time period. This is clearly alarming for public health officials in New South Wales, especially because there is no vaccine nor treatment for the disease. Symptoms, similar to other togaviruses include: fever, rash, and joint pain. Infection with Ross River virus can be very debilitating, and last from weeks to months depending on the individual infected.
Ross River virus is primarily by infected mosquitoes. Thus, the increase in Ross River virus infection is due to increased mosquito:human contact in the area. While the reasons for the increase in mosquito presence in New South Whales and other parts of the country are not 100% defined, many attribute it to the warm, wet weather the area has seen recently. However, in addition it may also be that more mosquitoes are actually carrying the virus this year than in past years which is causing the spike in infection.
What’s dangerous about this increase in mosquitoes is that they may also be carrying more lethal viruses such as Kunjin virus or Murray Valley encephalitis virus. Public health officials are recommending the usual tactics to avoid being bit by an infected mosquito: insect repellant, long-sleeves, and mosquito nets.