The True Facts about DEADLY MOSQUITOES
The following information is from The Northern Territory Government, Department of Health and Community Services.
In the Northern Territory (NT) there are 20 different pest problem mosquitoes that live and breed in varying habitats. Some of these species are capable of carrying and spreading diseases that are potentially harmful to both humans and pets. Exposure to large numbers of mosquitoes increases the risk of being infected with a mosquito-borne disease.
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What diseases do mosquitoes spread in the NT?
Ross River virus disease
This viral, potentially debilitating, disease results in rash, swelling and pain in the joints and is spread by a number of mosquito species. Most cases occur in the December to February period when salt marsh mosquitoes are active.
RRV infection cannot be spread from person to person. The virus is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. The mosquitoes present in the Northern Territory (NT) that can spread the virus are Culex annulirostris (common banded mosquito), Ochlerotatus vigilax (salt marsh mosquito), Ochlerotatus normanensis (flood water mosquito) and Ochlerotatus notoscriptus (backyard mosquito). Many people, particularly children, even if bitten by an infected mosquito, do not develop any symptoms of the disease.
RRV is found throughout Australia, Papua New Guinea, parts of Indonesia and the western Pacific Islands. In the NT, the main risk season is from December to March inclusive with the highest risk period in January when large numbers of mosquitoes result from either high tides or increased rainfall. Humid conditions enable mosquitoes to live longer, which allows more chance for a mosquito to pick up a virus from an animal and to live long enough to pass it on to humans.
Symptoms vary from person to person and may appear from 3 days to 3 weeks after being bitten, most commonly within 7 to 14 days. The illness generally begins with painful (sometimes swollen) joints and muscle and tendon pain. The most commonly affected joints are the ankles, fingers, knees and wrists. The pain usually develops rapidly, may be intense, and may be more severe in different joints at different times.
Other symptoms include a raised red rash affecting mostly limbs and trunk, fever, fatigue, headache, light intolerance and swollen glands. Less common symptoms include sore eyes and throat, nausea and tingling in the palms of the hands or soles of the feet.
Fever, nausea and the skin rash usually disappear within the first 1 or 2 weeks of illness. Joint, muscle and tendon pain may last much longer, and can be distressing. Some people also have lingering fatigue, lethargy and depression. Symptoms subside eventually and leave few or no after-effects. It is not possible at present to say how long an individual person will take to get better. Some adults with RRV infection recover within 2 to 6 weeks of onset of the illness and most people will progressively improve over 3 to 6 months. A minority of people (about 15%) will still be unwell at 3 months, and at 6 months about 5% will have persistent joint pains and lethargy.
A small minority (up to 2%) of people may have residual symptoms after a year. In general people with symptoms after a year should be re-investigated and other forms of arthritis considered.
People with long-term symptoms are not sick all the time. By 3 months, many people experience some days when they are well and others when they are not, and as time goes by, the latter become less frequent, but symptoms may recur suddenly and without warning.
As a rule, once you’ve had RRV once, you won’t get it again. However, there have been a few rare cases of people developing RRV more than once in their lifetime.
Children tend to experience milder symptoms of shorter duration than adults.
Murray Valley encephalitis
This viral disease can cause serious illness and death, and is spread by the common banded mosquito. Cases occur sporadically in the wet to mid dry season from Central Australia to the Top End.
Kunjin virus disease
This viral disease is characterised by severe headaches and fever, and is spread by the common banded mosquito. Sporadic cases occur in the wet to mid dry season across the Northern Territory.
Barmah Forest virus disease
This disease is similar to Ross River virus disease but is generally milder and less common. Spread by salt marsh and common banded mosquitoes.
What diseases are also spread by mosquitoes, but currently NOT in the NT?
Australia was certified malaria free in 1981. Malaria infected mosquitoes are no longer present in the NT, however mosquitoes capable of spreading the disease are. The parasite could be re-introduced into the NT by infected people returning or visiting from overseas and being bitten by local mosquitoes. People visiting countries known to have malaria should consult with their doctor regarding anti malarial protection while overseas and elimination of malaria parasites on return.
The mosquito species capable of spreading dengue fever is no longer present in the NT, however it is found in Northern Queensland and could potentially be re-introduced into the NT. Dengue fever is characterised by severe muscle and joint pain. don’t bring old tyres or pot plant drip trays with mosquito eggs into the NT from North Queensland.
Japanese encephalitis (JE)
The JE virus is not present in the NT, however the mosquito capable of spreading it is. Japanese encephalitis is a potentially fatal disease and was first found in Australia in 1995. Since then there have been periodic cases in Australia, all from the Torres Strait Cape York region.
The health and well-being of your family is in your hands! So why would you put up with disease-carrying mosquitos around your home?