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.

Mosquitoes get buzzy infecting 150 residents with diseases

MOSQUITOES have infected more than 150 locals with diseases this year.

NewsRegional analysis of NSW health data shows 114 people living in the Northern NSW health district were diagnosed with Ross River virus in the past seven months.

This is well above last year's notification rate of 52.

There are also 15 cases of dengue fever and 27 cases of the Barmah Forest virus, both of which mosquitoes spread.

The Northern NSW health region covers Lismore, Byron, Tweed, Ballina and Grafton.

Across NSW, there have been 1204 infections reported in the past seven months, compared to a total 640 for all of 2016.

Lismore City Council does not have specific mosquito control plan but it will participate in the Northern Rivers Emerging Vector Response Plan overseen by Tweed Council.

The plan includes the creation of a response manual, mock outbreak scenarios, building a cross scale network and providing integrated mechanisms for the region to respond rapidly in advance of potential mosquito outbreaks.

Ballina Shire, Byron Shire, Richmond Valley Shire and Clarence Valley councils are also taking part.

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."

NSW Health in February issued public alerts after it found increased mosquito numbers across the state.

"In response to increasing mosquito numbers following floods, NSW Health added additional sites to trap mosquitoes in affected areas, provided information to affected communities and GPs, and advised local governments to inform ongoing mosquito management," it said in a statement.

"NSW Health also convened a panel of experts to review information and predictive models to inform the best preventive strategies.

"There is little evidence that broad-scale spraying is useful in these situations and, the main prevention focus is local control measures along with advice on personal protection."

How a mozzie knocked Glenda off her feet

GLENDA Pummeroy loves nothing more than socialising with her friends

She's the kind of woman who refuses to sit around doing nothing, but a mozzie managed to knock the wind out of the 52-year-old's sails.

Diagnosed in May with Ross River virus, Glenda says the worst part of the disease was not having the energy or strength to continue her social life.

 

Glenda Pummeroy of Grafton is recovering from Ross River Fever.
Glenda Pummeroy of Grafton is recovering from Ross River Fever. Adam Hourigan

"There was this horrible pain in my feet and my shoulders," she says.

"I couldn't flex my ankles so I was always walking on stiff feet.

"It was so painful, but the worst part was the lethargy and the fear of depression.

"Because I am really active, it was a bit of a bummer."

Glenda is one of the 114 Northern NSW residents who have contracted Ross River this year.

The part-time office worker can expect to endure symptoms for up to 40 weeks, but she is determined not to let it beat her. 

She said the turning point came when she replaced over-the-counter pain killers with natural remedies.

"I was taking Nurofen three times a day just to work a four-hour shift," she said.

"I decided to see a naturopath and I was given magnesium powder, which is a natural anti-inflammatory."

Glenda also takes turmeric, a mixture of ginger and devil's claw and vitamin C and zinc.

"I don't think it's left my system yet but I'm feeling really good," she said.

Hope century-old drug will reduce virus symptoms

A NEW treatment for Ross River fever could make a world of difference for people with the disease.

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 114 Northern NSW 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.

 

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

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 Queensland and Victorian patients but if there was enough interest that number would be increased and trial sites could be set up in other areas.

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 CEO 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