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In Western Australia, the mosquito-borne diseases of most public health concern are:
- Ross River virus (RRV) disease;
- Barmah Forest virus (BFV) disease;
- Kunjin (KUN) virus disease;
- the rare, but potentially fatal Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE).
These diseases are caused by viruses that are transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito.
Local governments carry out mosquito control programs in some areas, but this is not always possible when breeding areas are large or inaccessible. Furthermore, residential areas in several regions of Western Australia are located in close proximity to major natural mosquito breeding habitat and many more are being developed due to the aesthetic value of living near water. Residents in such areas may be exposed to a greater risk of contracting mosquito-borne diseases as well as intense nuisance problems at certain times of year when adult mosquitoes disperse from breeding habitat into surrounding suburbs.
Therefore it is important for people to take the following measures to reduce the risk of contracting mosquito-borne disease, including:
- avoid outdoor exposure to mosquitoes from dusk and the first few hours after dark (however some mosquito species, such as saltmarsh mosquitoes, will also bite during the day);
- wear protective (long, loose-fitting, light-coloured) clothing when outdoors;
- use a personal repellent containing diethyl toluamide (DEET) or picaridin. The most effective and long-lasting formulations are lotions or gels. Most natural or organic repellents are not as effective as DEET or picaridin. Refer to the Guide to personal protection strategies against Australian mosquitoes (http://medent.usyd.edu.au/RepellentGuidelines.pdf);
- install insect screens on doors and windows of homes, and enclose outdoor living areas;
- use mosquito nets and mosquito-proof tents if camping/living outdoors; and
- ensure infants and children are adequately protected, preferably with suitable clothing, bed nets or other forms of insect screening.
Residents should also minimise mosquito breeding around the home by taking some simple steps to remove or modify breeding sites by:
- disposing of all containers which hold water;
- stocking ornamental ponds with fish and keep vegetation away from the water’s edge;
- keeping swimming pools well chlorinated, filtered and free of dead leaves;
- filling or drain depressions in the ground that hold water;
- fitting mosquito proof covers to vent pipes on septic tank systems. Seal all gaps around the lid and ensure leach drains are completely covered;
- screening rainwater tanks with insect proof mesh, including inlet, overflow and inspection ports;
- ensuring guttering does not hold water;
- emptying pot plant drip trays once a week or fill them with sand; and
- emptying and clean animal and pet drinking water bowls once a week.
For information on mosquito control in your local area or to report mosquito problems please contact your Local Government Environmental Health Officer. For more information about mosquito management, contact the Environmental Health Directorate on (08) 9388 4999 or email email@example.com or see ww2.health.wa.gov.au/Articles/J_M/Mosquito-management.