Hundreds of Australians staying in popular holiday destinations in Victoria are affected by a rare and debilitating mosquito-borne disease.
Cases of Ross River fever have skyrocketed in recent months in East Gippsland, Greater Geelong and the Surf Coast as residents have flocked to intrastate vacation spots.
The unusual disease – which occurs mostly in Northern Australia, Papua New Guinea, and other South Pacific islands – causes arthritic pain, fever, rashes, and chronic exhaustion.
Since the beginning of the year, 677 Victorians have been diagnosed with the virus, compared to only 28 at the same time in 2020 and 68 the year before.
Since the beginning of this year, more than 600 Victorians have been diagnosed with mosquito-borne Ross River fever, while the numbers are exploding in East Gippsland, Greater Geelong and the Surf Coast. Pictured: Queenscliff
Intensive care nurse Bianca Dhollander was on vacation with her family in Queenscliff in the Bellarine Peninsula in January when she received a report of an outbreak in the area.
A week after returning from the trip, she developed a fever, severe headache, swollen hands and feet, joint pain, extreme exhaustion, and brain fog.
‘It clicked in my head that I could have it, so I went to the doctor and asked for a blood test. It came back positive, ”Ms. Dhollander told Daily Mail Australia.
‘My feet and hands suddenly swelled and I had hip pain. I could no longer try on my wedding ring. ‘
‘The pain feels like you’ve broken every bone, or that there are glass splinters in the joints. There is also a constant painful tingling sensation from the swelling. ‘
The mother of three is no stranger to fatigue – she permanently works night shifts, caring for two sons battling rare genetic conditions.
But this exhaustion is “like nothing she’s been through before.”
Bianca Dhollander caught Ross River fever in January while vacationing with her family (pictured) in Queenscliff, Bellarine Peninsula
‘This is on a different level. The pain and fatigue are extreme. I’m shocked that for years I researched at night, not sleep because of my sick boys, and then it was a mosquito that finally broke me, ‘she said.
Mrs. Dhollander spent seven weeks off work before she was forced to return after using up all her sick leave.
Three months later, she is still suffering from severe exhaustion and swollen limbs, making it extremely painful to perform daily activities.
And the end is not yet in sight.
“It probably got a job since I had to go back to work,” she said.
‘There is no real treatment. Some people get better in weeks, but most suffer for months or even years. ‘
A spokesman for the World Mosquito Program research institute told Daily Mail Australia that the Ross River outbreaks are cyclical, with years big and small, based on climate conditions.
Rises usually occur after a wet spring, which provided better breeding conditions for mosquitoes.
Mrs. Dhollander has since suffered from severe exhaustion and swollen limbs (her feet in the photo) making it painful to move and wear restrictive clothing
The large number of Victorians vacationing locally has fueled the spike as well, as more people come into contact with the infected insects.
The Ross River virus is spread after a female mosquito feeds on the blood of an infected animal and contracts the infection.
The virus then multiplies in the mosquito and is passed on to other animals or humans when the mosquito feeds again.
The Ross River virus cannot be transmitted from person to person.
She was forced to take off her wedding ring after her hands had swollen and stiffened
People who have been bitten by an infected mosquito may not get any symptoms at all.
However, others may develop flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, headache, and muscle / joint pain within a week of being bitten.
Some joints can become swollen or quite stiff, especially in the morning. This can take months for some people.
A rash can also appear on the body, arms or legs and usually disappear after 7-10 days.
There is currently no treatment for the Ross River virus, but medications can be used to relieve the pain of symptoms.
To avoid mosquito bites and the risk of contracting the disease, it is recommended to wear loose-fitting clothing and to lather mosquito repellent onto the skin.
What is the Ross River Virus?
- Joint pain – wrists, knees, ankles, fingers and toes are the most commonly affected joints
- Fatigue or listlessness
- muscle aches or pain
- rash on the trunk or limbs
- enlargement of the lymph nodes in the groin or armpit
- headache or fever
Prevention of the Ross River virus
- Wear long, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing and use repellants containing DEET or picaridin
- Avoid areas prone to mosquitoes, especially at dusk and dawn
- Ensure mosquito nets are properly installed on windows and exterior doors
- Reducing the number of mosquito breeding habits in the house
Source: Better Health Channel Victoria