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Mar 21, 2010

Adapted from ABC Health & Wellbeing Fact File
Ross River fever is caused by a viral infection, transmitted through mosquito bites. The Ross River virus was named after the river in northern Queensland where it was first identified, but it is found in all states of Australia and throughout Papua New Guinea and many islands in the South Pacific.
The disease is most common in Australia from spring to autumn, particularly from January through to March, when mosquitoes are most abundant.
Ross River Fever is in a class of viruses called arboviruses (or arthropod-borne viruses), spread mainly by blood-sucking insects. Other arboviruses include dengue, Barmah forest virus, Japanese encephalitis and yellow fever.
Infection with the Ross River virus is most commonly associated with fever, rash and joint pains. Swelling of joints may also occur – especially in the fingers, wrists and feet – and joint stiffness tends to be worse in the morning.
General symptoms such as nausea, headache, backache, and muscle aches are also common. Lethargy and fatigue are often debilitating, with some people unable to carry out minor activities, or even get out of bed.
Symptoms of the virus usually come on between five and 14 days after infection and disappear within six weeks. However, 10 per cent of people have ongoing joint pains, depression and fatigue for many months.
In many cases, particularly in children, infection with Ross River virus may cause no symptoms at all.
The Ross River virus usually lives in native mammals such as kangaroos and wallabies, but can also affect rodents and even horses. These animals act as natural reservoirs for the virus and when a female mosquito bites an infected animal it picks up some of the virus.
The virus enters the human bloodstream via the saliva of an infected mosquito. It then reproduces itself in some of the blood cells and builds up in organs such as muscles, joints and the skin, resulting in the symptoms of infection. This incubation time – or the time between being bitten by mosquito and early symptoms – is usually about one week. Ross River virus infection cannot be passed from person to person.
The diagnosis of Ross River fever is made by taking a blood test. People who have been exposed to Ross River virus develop antibodies to the organism in their blood and the test detects these. 
Unfortunately there are no specific treatments. The virus is not killed by antibiotics, although doctors can advise on treatment to relieve the aches, pains and joint swelling. Aspirin and other analgesics can help. Bed rest is sometimes needed in more severe cases and avoiding alcohol and excessive physical activity is recommended.
Protecting yourself and your family from mosquito bites is the most important factor in preventing this disease.
 - avoid known mosquito-infested areas, 
   especially at dawn and dusk 
 - install insect screens in the home
 - be extra careful when on holidays or camping;
   tents and caravans should be screened
 - sleep under a mosquito net

 - use a personal insect repellent
 - cover up with long-sleeved shirts and trousers
 - wear loose fitting clothing as mosquitoes
    can bite through fabrics (incl' denim jeans!)
 - get rid of
stagnant water near the house
 - avoid overwatering lawns, gardens

Mosquito populations, as well as the levels of viruses they carry, are monitored in government-based programs which aim to prevent Ross River Fever outbreaks.
 Patients' stories - NSW arbovirus surveillance and vector monitoring program | Feeling the heat - Health & Wellbeing feature | Ross River virus breakthrough - AM 06/05/2008 | W.A. Shire of Capel Mosquito Control Program |


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Jenny Dooley
, 3, 2 children
Eastlakes, SW, Australia
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