Health Officer issues Ross River warning for Greater Geelong

January 7, 2021 BY

Chief Health Officer of Communicable Diseases has issued a warning to the Greater Geelong region after a Ross River surge. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

RESIDENTS and visitors of the Greater Geelong region are being warned to protect themselves as Ross River cases continue to rise in the region.

Deputy Chief Health Officer (Communicable Diseases) Dr Annaliese van Diemen said the virus had been detected among mosquitos located at Anglesea and Mildura.

The advisory was issued on Christmas Eve following confirmation of five cases of Ross River in the City of Greater Geelong and eight along the Surf Coast Shire.

Recent weather and water conditions across the Surf Coast, Geelong and Bellarine Peninsula have created ideal breeding grounds for Ross River and Barmah Forest Virus.

These diseases can cause serious illness and occur frequently in regional parts of Victoria.

“Ross River virus and Barmah Forest virus disease are similar,” Dr van Diemen said.

“Both can cause joint swelling and pain, fatigue and muscle aches which can persist for many months.”

Ross River takes between three to 21 days for symptoms to appear while Barmah Forest virus usually takes seven to 10 days after being infected.

“While everyone recovers from the initial onset, symptoms may recur in some individuals for over a year or more,” she said.

Earlier this month a spokesperson from the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed two cases of the virus in Greater Geelong and one case in the Surf Coast Shire.

The annual tally stands at six cases across Greater Geelong, two more than previous years while the Surf Coast Shire reported 10 cases, as many as nine more than in 2019.

“As COVID-19 restrictions ease, there are greater opportunities to travel around Victoria and enjoy increased outdoor activity,” she said.

“Taking measures to avoid mosquito bites is therefore a critical step to protect against diseases.”

While most people are anticipated to make full recoveries in three to six months after initial infection, there is currently no vaccine.

“The only protection against the disease being not getting bitten,” she said.

Department of Infectious Diseases director, Professor Eugene Athan, said the most common symptoms include joint pain and muscle stiffness.

Other symptoms include fever, chills, muscle aches, joint pain, swelling, rash, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes and headaches.

“People should limit outdoor activity if lots of mosquitos are about, wear light-coloured, loose fitting clothes, and use effective mosquito repellents containing DEET or Picaridin,” Prof Athan said.

These diseases can be determined by a blood test. If you are showing symptoms contact your GP immediately.