Tasmania health officials are advising people who live on the East Coast, or plan on traveling there, to ensure they protect themselves against mosquitoes following a number of cases of Barmah Forest virus.

To date, five confirmed cases of the mosquito-borne disease have been reported, with a two additional cases being investigated.

Officials note that these cases represent the first time they have been able to confirm the virus has been contracted in Tasmania.

Public Health Services has partnered with University of Tasmania to conduct mosquito trapping in an attempt to learn more about this outbreak.

Ross River infections reported in Melbourne

PHS and UTAS staff will volunteer their time this weekend to set a number of traps on the East Coast.

The trapping will attempt to confirm the presence of mosquito species known to carry the virus, and also to hopefully trap a mosquito carrying the virus for further research.

Image/Robert Herriman
Image/Robert Herriman

Barmah Forest virus is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. It is related to Ross River virus.

Barmah Forest virus is relatively common in mainland states but has not been thought to be present in Tasmania until recently.

Many people may be asymptomatic. If symptoms are present, they can manifest as fever, headache, aches and pains in muscles and joints, tiredness, rash and swollen or stiff joints.

Symptoms usually develop three to 21 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Most people recover completely in a few weeks.

Preventing insect bites will also protect against other mosquito-borne diseases, such as Ross River virus, and tick-borne diseases, such as Flinders Island spotted fever.

To protect against mosquitoes and ticks:
•Avoid mosquito-infested areas, where possible.
•Cover-up with a loose-fitting long sleeved shirt and long pants when outside.
•Put mosquito repellent on exposed skin.
•Take special care during peak mosquito biting hours, especially around dawn and dusk, and when outdoors or camping.
•Remove potential mosquito breeding sites from around the home and screen windows and doors.