Why Australia will see more mosquitoes this summer – sparking warnings over potentially deadly insect-borne diseases
- The Bureau of Meterology revealed a La Niña had formed in the tropical Pacific
- However, experts warned weather phenomenon could bring more mosquitoes
- Mosquitoes can carry potential deadly illnesses such as the Ross River virus
Australians have been warned to expect a possible mosquito explosion brought on by a wet summer.
Conditions could be about to get hotter and wetter in the north of the country after a La Niña formed in the tropical Pacific.
The Bureau of Meteorology said the weather phenomenon which could result in heavy, rainfall, flash flooding and an early start to cyclone season, could last until the end of the year.
The bad news is that these conditions are perfect for mosquitoes, which are likely to thrive in the coming months.
This has sparked fears that there could be an outbreak of mosquito-borne diseases such as the ‘potentially fatal’ Murray Valley encephalitis virus.
Experts have warned that wetter conditions and increased humidity could bring more mosquitoes to the Sunshine State (stock)
The last time Australia experience a La Niña was in 2010 and 2011, when Queensland was battered by floods.
Cameron Webb, Clinical Associate Professor and Principal Hospital Scientist, University of Sydney, said similar weather patterns has sparked a mosquito population boom in the past.
‘Mosquitoes lay their eggs on or around stagnant or still water. This could be water in ponds, backyard plant containers, clogged gutters, floodplains or wetlands,’ he wrote for The Conversation.
‘Mosquito larvae hatch and spend the next week or so in the water before emerging as adults and buzzing off to look for blood.
‘If the water dries up, they die. But the more rain we get, the more opportunities for mosquitoes to multiply.’
Dr Webb said an increase in mosquito numbers is likely to escalate the risk of the diseases they spread, especially the Ross River virus.
Dr Webb said an increase in mosquito numbers is likely to escalate the risk of the diseases they spread, especially the Ross River virus (stock)
Victoria had an outbreak of the Rose River virus in the summer of 2016.
Entomologist Stephen Doggett told Seven News the best way to avoid mosquitoes is to avoid areas prone to them at dawn and dusk.
He also advised it is important to cover up and make sure you wear repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, or eucalyptus.
‘Most importantly, read the label and see when you need to reapply it – because there are different reapplication rates for different products and different percentages of the chemical that’s inside the repellent,’ he said.
People are also advised to close their windows and doors, and use insecticide if found in the home.
What is Ross River and Barmah Forest, Murray Valley encephalitis virus?
The Ross River and Barmah Forest viruses can spread by the bite of certain types of infected female mosquitoes.
Sometimes aspirin or paracetamol are enough to treat the virus but a doctor will advise the best form of treatment.
Murray Valley encephalitis virus (MVE) is a flavivirus spread by mosquitoes.
It can cause permanent neurological disease or death and was first found in Australia in Victoria in 1951.
It is very rare for humans to contract MVE.
Diagnosis of the above viruses must be reported to the Department of Health so they can keep track of infected areas.
The viruses can only be diagnosed through a blood test. There are no registered vaccinations to help prevent catching the virus.
Symptoms of the Ross River and Barmah illnesses can include:
- Painful and swollen joints
- Aching tendons
- Skin rashes, which are more common in BFV patients
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Tingling sensation in palms or soles of feet
- Sore eyes
- Sore throat
Symptoms of MVE include fever, drowsiness, confusion, seizures and vomiting.