Health authorities are urging people to take precautions against mosquitoes, especially during gardening or outdoor exercise activities, as a wet and warm summer beckons.

Hunter New England Public Health Unit Director Dr David Durrheim said “good rainfall as the warmer summer months approached had resulted in excellent breeding conditions for mosquitoes responsible for spreading Ross River virus and Barmah Forest virus”.

The only way to prevent infection is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. “These viruses are spread by mosquitoes that feed on animals that have the infection, so prevention depends on avoiding mosquito bites, especially in summer and autumn months when infections peak,” Dr Durrheim said.

“The symptoms of Ross River virus and Barmah Forest virus infection include fever, skin rash, painful joints and tiredness. Most people affected will have a mild illness that lasts for a few days. However, in some people, aching joints and lethargy can last for months.”

Dr Durrheim said parents should aim to keep their children inside during high-risk mosquito feeding times around dawn and dusk.

“It’s also really important to be cautious when using insect repellents on children. Roll-on repellents are preferable to sprays and should be applied sparingly to exposed skin,” he said.

Simple steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes include:

  • Cover up as much as possible when outside with light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing and covered footwear.
  • Use an effective insect repellent on 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. Repellents containing oil of lemon eucalyptus also provide adequate protection.
  • Use physical barriers such as netting on prams, cots and play areas for babies. Repellents should not be used on the skin of children under the age of three months.
  • Check the product label of repellents for recommended age of use. Most skin repellents are safe to use for children over the age of 3 months or older. Some formulations are only suitable for children over 12 months.
  • Use insecticide sprays, vapour dispensing units (indoors) and mosquito coils (outdoors) to clear rooms or repel mosquitoes from an area.
  • Cover all windows, doors, vents and other entrances with insect screens.
  • Remove and prevent mosquito breeding sites around the home, such as emptying containers that hold water.

For more information, visit https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/mosquito.aspx