“Mosquito numbers normally increase in summer but tend to become more of an issue after flooding, when there is water lying around and weather warms up” said Tony Kohlenberg, Senior Environmental Health Officer.
“The heavy rains and flooding of recent weeks has produced more mosquito breeding sites and a greater risk of being bitten.”
“Ross River and Barmah Forest viruses are common on the north coast and are transmitted by infected mosquitoes that breed in flooded, grassy and swampy areas and around waterways,” said Tony Kohlenberg.
On average, in each year over the past decade, about 500 people living on the NSW north coast were diagnosed with either Ross River virus or Barmah Forest virus – in equal numbers (around 250 cases of each are reported on average each year.)
Compared to the NSW average, people living on north coast are five to eight times more likely to be infected with Barmah Forest virus and three to five times more likely to be infected with Ross River virus.
Simple steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes include:
- When outside cover up as much as possible with light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing and covered footwear.
- Use an effective repellent on all exposed skin. Re-apply repellent within a few hours, as protection wears off with perspiration. The best mosquito repellents contain Diethyl Toluamide (DEET) or Picaridin.
- Light mosquito coils or use vapourising mats indoors. Devices that use light to attract and electrocute insects are not effective.
- Cover all windows, doors, vents and other entrances with insect screens.
- When camping, use flyscreens on caravans and tents or sleep under mosquito nets.
“Preventing these viruses depends on avoiding mosquito bites, especially in the warmer months of the year when mosquitoes are most active,” Mr Kohlenberg said.