The diseases carried by mosquitoes won’t kill you but can be seriously debilitating. In Australia there are around 400 species of mosquitos but only approximately 10 are commonly abundant and represent a serious pest threat due to their biting or their ability to transmit diseases.
Diseases transmitted by mosquitoes in Australia
Ross River Virus: Ross River Fever is contracted from the bite of an infected mosquito. The most common symptoms are: nausea, fever, headache, skin rash, joint pain and tiredness. Ross River Fever is not life threatening but in some cases, fatigue and lethargy can last for several months.
Barmah Forest Virus: Barmah Forest Virus occurs in most states of Australia. The disease is non-fatal and most infected people recover. It is contracted from the bite of an infected mosquito and its most common symptoms are: fever, rash, arthralgia, general discomfort, and muscle tenderness. Fever and general discomfort generally disappear within a few days to a week, but other symptoms such as joint pain may continue for six months or longer.
The Murray Valley Encephalitis Virus: also known as Australian Encephalitis, is an endemic (always present) virus in northern Australia. It is contracted from the bite of a mosquito. The most common symptoms are: fever, drowsiness, confusion, headache, neck stiffness, nausea, vomiting, tremors and seizures.
Dengue: is not normally present in Australia unless someone brings it in to the country. It does not spread directly from person to person. The most common symptoms of the fever are: a high temperature, nausea, pain in the joints, fatigue, and intense headache.
Chikungunya: mosquitoes capable of transmitting chikungunya virus are present in north Queensland, Torres Strait and some locations in central and southern Queensland. Symptoms usually take 3-7 days to appear after you are bitten. The most common symptoms are fever, joint pains (arthralgia), swelling and stiffness. Other common symptoms include headache, muscle pains, nausea, fatigue and sometimes a rash on the truck and limbs which may last for 7 to 10 days. Most people feel better within a week but joint pains associated with chikungunya may be debilitating, and may last for prolonged periods. Most patients recover fully, but in some cases joint pains can persist for months or years. Chikungunya infection is diagnosed by a blood test.
Malaria: Unfortunately, you cannot be vaccinated against Malaria but you can prevent it by taking anti-malarial medicines. The most important symptoms of malaria are: fever, headache, diarrhea, cough or chills, may also occur. The only way to make sure you have Malaria is by taking a blood sample.
- Zika: is a mosquito born virus transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito. It is usually a mild disease. The most common symptoms are: fever, rash, joint pain, muscle pain, headache or conjuntivitis (red eyes).
How do I Prevent Mosquito Bites?
- Use insect repellent containing DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) as its active ingredient. DEET is known to be safe and effective, and it is currently the only repellent that effectively protects against the mosquitoes that cause malaria.
- Wear long pants and long sleeves.
- Use a bed net.
- Try to sleep in air-conditioned places.
How do I Treat Mosquito Bites?
Usually cold water and ice calm the itchiness. A variety of commercial preparations such as Eurax and Stingose are known to help calm the bite. In severe cases, oral antihistamines are administered.
Remember, no vaccines are available for malaria, dengue, chikungunya and zika, so it's always better to prevent any bite!