Ross River Fever

When the weather is (at times) warmer and there has been lots of rain, hungry mosquitoes are out in large numbers. Apart from being annoying and uncomfortable, these days, mosquito bites can bring more than just discomfort. One mosquito borne disease that has reached the Illawarra is Ross River Fever. The Ross River Virus is transmitted by the Aedes vigilax mosquito, which was first detected in the Ross River area of Queensland.

(RRF) Once thought to be confined to the tropics, Ross River Fever has slowly found its way to Southern areas of Australia. In 1995 there were only 242 cases of RRF reported in NSW. In 2003 almost 2000 cases were reported. Mosquitoes that transmit Ross River fever have been present in Wollongong for several years now, which is the basis for a warning to be issued by the Illawarra Area Health Service, (IAHS) to residents of the Illawarra to protect themselves from mosquito bites.


Once called ‘epidemic polyarthritis’ RRF causes flu like symptoms. RRF, may start out like any virus, with joint pains, fever, chills, headache then go on to include painful and swollen joints, skin rashes, muscle aches, and swollen glands and fatigue. A general feeling of tiredness or weakness may also occur at times. Usually these symptoms last for up to 12 months, but can last for much longer. Many people who are infected with the virus will never develop symptoms and it is not fatal.

The virus is not spread directly from one person to another. After being bitten by an infected mosquito, symptoms can develop from three to eleven days later.

All that’s needed to find out if you have RRF is a blood test from your doctor, which checks for viral antibodies to RRF. It takes about two weeks to get the results.


Medical treatment offers medications for the pain and symptoms, which can linger for months. Symptoms are treated as they arise, to make sufferers more comfortable.

There is no specific medical treatment for RRF, but there is if you see a homeopath! We currently have some patients with RRF who are responding well to homeopathic medicines. Rather than managing the symptoms, homeopathic medicines help your immune system to fight off the virus. As with all homeopathic medicines, they do need to be prescribed individually, for each person, based on their particular symptoms. However, there is a specific remedy called a nosode which we use in patients with this disease.


It is wise to protect yourself from mosquito bites, not just from the discomfort they cause, but to protect against any possibility of being infected with mosquito – borne viruses. (There are other less common viruses as well.)

The best possible protection against mosquito-borne viruses is to avoid being bitten by them.

This isn’t easy and requires a multitude of measures!

  • Stay indoors during dusk and dawn.
  • Have mosquito screens fitted on doors and windows.
  • Use mosquito nets in the bedroom – this helps to avoid more toxic mosquito repellents, especially for young children
  • Ensure open containers of water are removed from around the home to prevent mosquitoes breeding. Cover the openings to water tanks with fine steel mesh to prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs in the tank.
  • Wear long sleeves and trousers, in light colours. (darker colours attract mozzies) especially during dusk and dawn. Mosquitoes are usually most active up to one to three hours after sunset and again around dawn.
  • Loose clothing is less likely to get bitten through than tight clothing.
  • Wear insect repellent when outdoors
  • Take extra care if you live near a river or water course
  • When camping, use fly screens on caravans and tents and sleep under mosquito proof nets.
  • Take care while fishing too!


We must not be complacent. Be sure to take sensible precautions all the time. We also need to be aware of the symptoms someone in the family experience if it seems like arthritis ‘out of the blue.’ If your or someone in your family suddenly develops unexplained joint pain, see your doctor for a blood test and bring a copy of your results with you to your appointment.

Ross River Fever is a notifiable disease.

See this NSW health department fact sheet:

Local Health Department contact numbers:

Wollongong 02 4221 6700 / Parramatta 02 9840 3603

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