By Gianfranco Di Giovanni
The state government will invest $4 million over four years to inform the public about the dangers of mosquito-borne diseases such as Ross River virus and provide advice about reducing the risk of being bitten.
According to Dr Michael Lindsay, Managing Scientist, Environmental Health Hazards at Department of Health there are approximately 1,000 cases per year in Western Australia.
“The aim is to increase awareness in the public so they see mosquitoes as more than just a nuisance,” said Dr Lindsay.
“We are targeting people who are travelling to regions particularly affected and ensuring that the information about risks has been put in front of them.”
The Department of Health’s Fight the Bite campaign advises the public wear protective clothing when outside, use repellents and clear any areas where mosquitoes may breed.
According to the Mosquito Management Annual Report produced by the City of Mandurah in 2014, the cost for each patient both to time lost and treatment ranges between $2000 and $5000 each.
Scott Strachan, a researcher at Murdoch University, says mosquitoes are found across the state, and changes in climate could affect the distribution of diseases and the introduction of new varieties.
“We’ve been seeing more outbreaks in WA, and changes in climate could change the risk factors,” said Mr Strachan.
“Mosquitoes are pretty much everywhere and current diseases are likely to move around a bit.”
Ross River or Barmah Forest viruses are the most common infections caused by mosquitoes in WA and the symptoms of infection include rashes, swelling and muscle pain.
There is a risk especially in the Kimberley region of WA that mosquitoes may carry the potentially fatal Murray River encephalitis.
Authorities in India are currently managing an outbreak of Dengue Fever with more than 6500 cases reported in New Delhi and at least 25 deaths so far.
While Dengue Fever is not currently found in Western Australia it is found in northern Queensland.