Ross River Fever is a mosquito-borne virus characterised mainly by joint pain and inflammation, although it can have an array of debilitating symptoms. At ArthritisCARE, we specialise in treating conditions, like the Ross River virus, offering comprehensive solutions and individualised care so you can resume your daily activities with minimal discomfort.
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What is the Ross River virus?
Ross River virus infection (or epidemic polyarthritis) occurs in most areas of Australia, especially in northern areas. An infected mosquito transmits the alphavirus to a person via a bite, who may then go on to show symptoms of Ross River fever within 7 to 10 days.
It is a reportable illness, and in large outbreaks, mosquitoes can spread the virus from infected people to other people. It is important to keep up to date with local guidelines to help prevent infection and transmission of this virus.
Ross River Virus and other mosquito-borne diseases like the Barmah Forest Virus, are spread directly through a mosquito bite.
What causes the Ross River virus infection?
A mosquito contracts the virus when it feeds from an infected animal, such as kangaroos, wallabies or wild rodents. The mosquito then bites a person, transmitting the virus. The virus cannot be passed from other animals to people, or from person to person. It is what is known as a vector-borne disease, which means it is only spread by insects.
When and where is Ross River fever most active?
The virus is common in many areas of Australia, in particular, mosquito-prone areas and mosquito breeding sites such as:
- Coastal regions
- Inland waterways
- Stagnant water
- Salt marshes
- Most regions with humid climates
In addition, the rate at which mosquitoes breed can increase after heavy rainfall, floods or high tides. This can lead to the occasional epidemic of Ross River virus infections.
In Queensland, the virus may occur at any time of the year, however, the majority of infections occur in the months between February and May.
What are the signs and symptoms of Ross River Fever?
The incubation period of the virus is 3 to 21 days. This means after a mosquito bites you, Ross River fever symptoms may not develop for up to 3 weeks. Additionally, about 3 in 10 will develop symptoms after being bitten by mosquitoes and the severity varies from person to person.
The Ross River fever symptoms most people will experience include:
- Joint pain and swelling, with the most commonly affected joints being the fingers, wrists, ankles and knees
- Stiffness and ligament, tendon or muscle pain around the affected joints
- Muscle aches
- A rash may appear up to 2 weeks before or after other symptoms and looks like small red spots
- Swollen lymph nodes
How long do these symptoms last?
Most people experience a full recovery within months. However, some people may continue to have symptoms longer than a year after they were bitten by an infected mosquito. In these rare cases, the symptoms of the Ross River virus generally come and go.
You may start experiencing symptoms of fever, headaches and joint pain 3 to 21 days after being bitten by mosquitoes infected by the Ross River virus.
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How is a Ross River virus infection diagnosed?
Your doctor or a Rheumatologist can diagnose Ross River virus infection based on your symptoms and a physical assessment. They may take a blood test to confirm the presence of mosquito-borne diseases or to rule out any other form of arthritis or illness.
What are the treatment options for the Ross River virus?
There is no known cure or specific treatment for the Ross River virus infection. However, the team at ArthritisCARE can provide symptomatic management and support to help alleviate your discomfort. There are several different medications we can trial to see what treatment will work best for you:
- Pain relief medication, such as paracetamol
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen
In addition, we can provide advice for other methods to prevent overtiredness, gentle exercise to keep your joints healthy and to support your emotional well-being.
How do you prevent the Ross River virus infection?
Whilst there is no preventive vaccine for the Ross River virus infection, there are many things you can do to minimise your chance of being infected. With Ross River, the best method is to avoid mosquito bites:
- Use mosquito repellents – the best insect repellent contains picaridin, lemon or eucalyptus oil or diethyltoluamide (DEET)
- Cover exposed skin with long, loose-fitting and light-coloured clothing and covered shoes
- Use insect screens on windows and external doors
Use mosquito coils or an insecticide spray in outdoor areas
- Avoid going outside when mosquitoes are most active, such as at dusk and dawn
Why choose ArthritisCARE to treat Ross River
virus infection in Brisbane?
ArthritisCARE in Brisbane offers expert care tailored to individuals suffering from a Ross River virus infection. Our dedicated team of professionals understands the complexities of the virus and provides a holistic approach to managing and alleviating symptoms. Choosing ArthritisCARE means choosing compassionate, comprehensive, and specialised care.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can help manage the physical and emotional aspects of a Ross River virus infection.
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A Ross River virus infection is typically not life-threatening, however, joint pain and muscle aches can cause significant discomfort. Generally, there is no permanent damage as a result of these mosquito-borne diseases.
Most people will fully recover within six weeks, however, occasionally people may have longer-term discomfort. A Rheumatologist can tailor therapy to your specific situation and help find a treatment plan to manage your symptoms of Ross River fever.
Ross River fever symptoms usually start 7 to 10 days after being exposed to infected mosquito bites, however, the incubation period is 3 to 21 days. This means some people may not show any signs or symptoms until a few weeks after suffering bites from infected mosquitoes.
Studies have shown that people generally build immunity and are unlikely to contract the Ross River virus again. Occasionally symptoms can come and go for over 12 months. This may feel like you catch the virus more than once, however, it is all usually part of the initial infection.
The Ross River rash appears as small, red spots usually on the torso and limbs. It may occasionally appear on the face and can be itchy.
The best way to protect yourself from Ross River or other mosquito-borne diseases is to avoid mosquito bites. This involves using insect repellent, mosquito nets, loose-fitting clothing to cover exposed skin, limiting outdoor activity when mosquitoes are most active and reducing mosquito breeding in the immediate area by eliminating stagnant water or using mosquito coils.
Travellers should be cautious in areas with high mosquito activity. It’s recommended to use insect repellents, wear protective clothing, and avoid outdoor activities during peak mosquito times, which are dusk and dawn.
If you suspect you have a Ross River virus infection, you need to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis. They can take a blood test to confirm. You also need to rest, drink plenty of fluids, and take pain relievers as prescribed. Avoid mosquito bites to prevent transmitting the virus back to mosquitoes, which can then infect others.
Recommended further advice is available from:
Arthritis Australia’s Ross River Virus Information page
Information Sheet: Ross River Virus and Barmah Forest Virus by Arthritis Australia
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