THE Gympie and Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health District is in the grip of the worst Ross River virus outbreak in years, though Gympie Regional Council figures suggest much of the outbreak is focused more on the coast and less in Gympie.
SCHHD spokeswoman Naomi Ford said it was impossible to separate the Sunshine Coast figures from the Gympie stats, but council health spokesman Cr Wayne Sachs said there had been no cases reported in Gympie in the past week at least.
SCHHD physician Dr Rod Davison said figures showed there had been four times more cases in the last month in the district than over the same period in the last four years.
"The region has received significant rainfall over the past few weeks and these rains have coincided with high tides, which make the region a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes," he said.
"This is even more important now with the high number of Ross River virus cases being diagnosed.
"As of last week, the number of cases of the virus notified as confirmed in the (Gympie and) Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service area so far this year is 85.
"This is almost four times the average number of cases reported in this period over the past four years (22)."
Ross River virus is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito.
Only female mosquitoes bite.
The good news, Dr Davison said, was that everybody who was infected with Ross River virus would recover.
"The virus causes inflammation and pain in the joints,'' he said.
"Symptoms may include fever with joint pain and swelling which may then be followed in one to 10 days by a raised red rash affecting mainly the trunk and limbs.
"The rash usually lasts for one to 10 days and may or may not be accompanied by a fever.
"The joint pain can be severe and usually lasts two to six weeks.
"Some people, especially children, may become infected without showing any symptoms.
"Most people become unwell within three to 11 days after being bitten by an infectious mosquito."
The Sunshine Coast is not the only region reporting higher than average cases across the south-east.
Dr Davison said the number of cases of Barmah Forrest virus, another mosquito-borne illness, reported in the same period was "surprisingly much lower than that for previous years".
How to protect yourself against Ross River:
The message is simple: where there is water, there are mozzies.
Check the following areas around your home weekly for evidence of mosquitoes or mosquito larvae and tip out, throw out or dry store items that can hold water:
- Bird baths
- Bromeliad plants
- Coconut shells
- Drain sumps
- Pet food bowls
- Palm fronds
- Plastic containers
- Pot plant bases (fill pot plants bases with sand)
- Rainwater tanks (find out more on how to keep your tanks safe)
- Self-watering pot plants
- Toys (store toys under cover)
- Watering cans (empty watering cans after use and store upside down)