Ross River virus is Australia's main mosquito-borne disease, there is no vaccine and it costs the Australian economy more than $20m a year to detect.
Ross River virus is Australia's main mosquito-borne disease, there is no vaccine and it costs the Australian economy more than $20m a year to detect.

Ross River Virus outbreak: 117 locals diagnosed

MOSQUITOES have infected 140 locals with diseases this year.

NewsRegional analysis of Queensland health data shows 117 people living in the Wide Bay health district were diagnosed with Ross River virus in the past seven months.

Last year, 112 locals contracted the disease.

There is also one case of malaria, seven of dengue fever and 15 cases of the Barmah Forest virus, all of which are spread by mosquitoes.

The Wide Bay health region covers the Fraser Coast and Bundaberg.

Across Queensland, there have been 1830 mozzie-borne virus infections reported in the past seven months, compared to 2462 for the whole of 2016.

Fraser Coast Regional Council monitors breeding sites and provides education to help residents lower the risks of mozzies multiplying.

"Residents can help control mosquito numbers by eliminating breeding sites around their homes," the council's environment portfolio spokesman Cr David Lewis said.

"Possible breeding places include drip trays under pot plants, old tyres and containers and roof gutters."

Ross River virus is Australia's main mosquito-borne disease.

There is no vaccine and it costs the Australian economy more than $20 million a year to detect.

The main treatment for the disease is anti-inflammatory medications.

Queensland virologist Professor John Aaskov said infection rates could rise across our region.

Prof Aaskov said transmission of the disease in our region was most likely human-mosquito-human rather than animal-mosquito-human.

"At the moment, the only way to stop the disease is to cover yourself up and some of the sunscreens have mosquito repellents in them," he said.

"A pair of thongs, stubbies and a singlet are not going to protect you from mosquitoes.

"Really, all we can do is avoid getting mosquito bites."

Queensland Health urged those with symptoms to ask their doctor for a blood test.

"Management of the illness generally involves treatment of the symptoms and most people recover without lasting effects," a spokesman said.

"Your doctor will advise on treatment for joint and muscle pains.

"If diagnosed with a mosquito-borne disease such as Ross River Fever, it is also important to prevent being bitten by mosquitoes so your illness is not passed on to someone else."

 

Ross River fever - sufferer Darren Everard from Hervey Bay.
Ross River fever - sufferer Darren Everard from Hervey Bay. Alistair Brightman

How a mozzie knocked Darren off his feet

IT takes a lot to knock workaholic and fitness fanatic Darren Everard off his feet.

The butcher turned regional councillor works seven days a week and in his downtime he can be found paddleboarding or doing a bit of surf lifesaving.

But all of this hit the skids in May when the "worst case of man flu" saw Darren curled up in bed for two days.

When he finally found the strength to get up, Darren was struck right back down by crippling pain in all of his joints.

"I couldn't hardly walk," he recalls.

"It seemed like every area of my body had been damaged - my feet, hands, back, shoulders, hips."

A blood test in June showed Darren had Ross River virus.

Taking anti-inflammatories to reduce the pain, Darren also investigated natural remedies to help keep symptoms at bay.

"I'm trying a mixture of garlic, ginger and lemon juice," he said.

"It makes you stink like a polecat but it seems to be a bit better."

He said some days were worse than others and there were times when he just had to go home to sleep.

"When you feel it coming, it's like you go a bit hazy and you've just got to lie down," he said.

"My feet and hands are throbbing - they are sore all the time.

"I can't even ride my paddleboard, I don't have the strength to ride it."

The symptoms can last up to 40 weeks but once you have had the disease you become immune and cannot get it again.

 

Tube and injection of blood tests
Ross River virus is detected by a blood test. guapofreak

Hope century-old drug will reduce virus symptoms

A NEW treatment for Ross River fever is being trialled in Queensland and Victoria.

If successful, pentosan polysulfate sodium could be used to significantly reduce the duration and severity of joint pain caused by the virus that has infected 117 Fraser Coast and Bundaberg residents this year.   

The drug has been around for more than a century to prevent formation of platelets during pre-operative procedures and to treat bladder pain.

It has also been used for osteoarthritis in animals and humans.

Paradigm Biopharma launched the limited clinical trial this month and is seeking people with the Ross River virus to take part.

It will be at least 12 months before researchers know if the drug is a success, with results to be released in mid-2018.

If successful, the drug could also be used to treat another mosquito-borne disease, chikungunya, that is prominent in South-East Asia.

Mater Health Services infectious disease specialist Dr Paul Griffin will oversee the clinical trial.

Dr Griffin said the trial was set to treat 24 Queensland patients but if there was enough interest that number would be increased and trial sites could be set up outside of Brisbane.

He said participants would be injected with the drug twice a week for six weeks and they would be monitored for about 102 days.

"We are very confident of the safety of this medication," Dr Griffin said.

Paradigm Biopharma chief Paul Rennie said the drug could prove to be the best treatment for "the worst flu you've ever had". 

AT A GLANCE

  • Ross River virus is spread by mosquitoes from infected animals or humans.
  • Only female mosquitoes can pass on the disease.
  • It is prevalent in about 20 species of mozzie.
  • Children who get the disease have less severe symptoms than adults.
  • Symptoms take two to nine days to develop.
  • Symptoms can last for 40 weeks and include fever chills, muscle aches, rashes, fatigue, aching tendons, swollen lymph nodes, headaches and extreme joint pain.
  • Once you have been infected you become immune to the disease.
  • It is diagnosed by a blood test.
  • People cannot spread the virus to other people.
  • The treatment is limited to pain killers and anti-inflammatories.
  • There is no vaccine available in Australia.

Source: Professor John Aaskov, Queensland University of Technology.

- NewsRegional