MOSQUITOES: Rose James maintains that Ross River Virus is more common in the region than most people think. Photo: Mike Knott / NewsMail
MOSQUITOES: Rose James maintains that Ross River Virus is more common in the region than most people think. Photo: Mike Knott / NewsMail Mike Knott

Mum and daughter suffer Ross River virus without knowing

A DEBILITATING mosquito-borne virus has hit two members of the same family, prompting a Burnett Heads woman to share her story and raise awareness about the condition.

Rose James and her daughter Megan Watts both tested positive to Ross River virus, which is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito.

"My daughter had unexplained health issues and she'd moved to Brisbane. None of the doctors found it up here and she'd gone to Brisbane and they didn't know her so they ran a whole gauntlet of tests and found she had Ross River," Ms James said.

"I thought if she has Ross River, then I have Ross River and of course I did."

Ms James said her doctor was reluctant to order the blood test but after convincing him, she also returned a positive result.

"It just shows up in your blood, it's not clear how long we've had it," she said.

"Its a little bit covered with us because I have rheumatoid arthritis, my daughter has rheumatoid arthritis and the symptoms gel ... so we just wiped off the symptoms as a rheumatic attack."

"So I upped my own medications and now the penny's dropped and I understand why they haven't worked.

"I think that's a little bit dangerous for all the people with arthritis and having such an elderly population."

Symptoms include joint swelling, aches and fever and while there is no treatment except rest and pain relief, Ms James wants others to speak to their doctors if they suspect they could have the virus.

A Bundaberg Regional Council spokesman said following recent regular rainfall the council had undertaken a mosquito treatment program at Burnett Heads in areas where ponded water was identified as potential breeding sites.

"These areas were treated with a larvacide which comes in the form of briquettes, pellets or sand," he said.

"This treatment program resulted in a significant drop in recorded adult mosquito numbers.

"Council is currently partnering with Queensland Health in a program where adult mosquitos caught in council traps are DNA tested to ascertain if they are carriers of Ross River Fever or Barmah Forest Virus.

To date all tests have proved negative.

"While Ross River remains a health concern across Queensland the reported number of cases is considered to be low. Council receives weekly updates on case numbers and there has been no significant rise in the number of cases recorded across our region," the spokesman said.

Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service public health physician Dr Margaret Young confirmed there had been 25 notifications of laboratory confirmed Ross River virus infection from the Bundaberg region so far this year, compared with 62 at this time last year.

"In all of 2015, there were 96 notified cases. Notifications vary from year to year so the variation from last year is not unusual," she said.

"Most presentations occur at general practitioners rather than at WBHHS facilities. Data collection is due to it being a notifiable disease - this requires laboratory-confirmed infections to be reported to our public health unit.

"In 2015 many parts of Queensland had high numbers of Ross River virus infection notifications. The numbers in Wide Bay were a bit higher than usual, but not as high as observed in other areas."

Dr Young said Ross River virus infections had a seasonal pattern with an increase occurring over the summer/early autumn, with the 2015 peak at the end of March. Ross River virus causes inflammation and pain in multiple joints (epidemic polyarthritis).

The 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 to10 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. In a very small proportion of people, symptoms can persist for three months.