Mosquitoes can transmit a range of viruses that can cause disease including Japanese encephalitis (JE), Ross River virus, Barmah Forest virus, Murray Valley encephalitis and West Nile/Kunjin virus. The Ethnic Council has free supplies of mosquito repellent.
Warm and wet weather can mean more mosquito biting and breeding, including the ones that can carry diseases that make you sick.
Your only protection against mosquitoes and the diseases they can carry is to avoid mozzie bites.
- Mozzies can bite through tight clothing. Cover up – wear long, loose-fitting clothing.
- Use mosquito repellents containing Picaridin or DEET on all exposed skin.
- Limit outdoor activity if lots of mosquitoes are about.
- Remove stagnant water where mosquitoes can breed around your home or campsite.
- On holidays make sure your accommodation is fitted with mosquito netting or screens.
- Use ’knockdown’ fly spray, mosquito coils or plug-in repellent where you gather to sit or eat outdoors.
- Don’t forget the kids – always check the insect repellent label. On babies, you might need to spray or rub repellent on their clothes instead of their skin. Avoid applying repellent to the hands of babies or young children.
Mosquito surveillance began in Victoria almost 50 years ago after the 1974 floods.
There was an outbreak of Murray Valley encephalitis where several people died and many more were left with long term brain damage.
The virus hasn’t been detected in humans in Victoria since, but it was found in chickens in 2011 and in recent months it’s been found in trapped mosquitoes across the north of the state.
And on both of those occasions, both in the seventies and in 2011 it followed heavy flooding and obviously that concerns us greatly because we’ve had a lot of flooding recently.
Japanese encephalitis virus causes a similar illness. It was first discovered in Australia last year in pigs and later in humans.
Like Murray Valley encephalitis it’s believed to have been spread here by waterbirds.
And these waterbirds are typically what we call migratory so we know that they fly long distances, and that migration of waterbirds can account for movement of these viruses from potentially country to country and definitely from state to state.
Mosquitoes usually feed on flower nectar. It’s only the females that bite us because they need protein from our blood to make their eggs.
They stick their long, tubular mouthpiece into your skin to extract blood and at the same time inject saliva which contains chemicals to make your blood flow smoothly.
The itchy lump you get is your body’s reaction to the saliva but if they have a virus, you can also get that and that’s what makes mosquitoes the deadliest animals on Earth.
While most of us are terrified of sharks, crocodiles and snakes, it’s the tiniest bite of all that kills the most number of humans. Around three quarters of a million people die each year from Mosquito borne diseases but that’s mainly from malaria, which doesn’t exist here.
How to mozzie-proof your home and holidays
Free Supplies of mosquito repellent are available from the Ethnic Council Office, 158 Welsford St, Shepparton, duing business hours, 9-4.