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Barmah Forest virus infection

5-minute read

Key facts

  • Barmah Forest virus infection is an illness spread by mosquitoes.
  • The virus is spread from animals to humans.
  • Symptoms include fever, headache and swollen joints.
  • Most people get better in a few weeks.
  • The best way to avoid Barmah Forest virus is to protect yourself from mosquito bites.

What is Barmah Forest virus infection?

Barmah Forest virus infection is caused by a virus that can be spread by mosquitoes.

The virus is zoonotic. This means it can be transmitted from animals to humans.

Barmah Forest virus is only found in Australia. It is found in most regions particularly around:

  • inland waterways
  • coastal regions

What are the symptoms of Barmah Forest virus infection?

Symptoms of Barmah Forest virus infection are:

Symptoms usually appear about 7 to 10 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. But it can take up to 21 days to have symptoms.

Some people (particularly children) may be asymptomatic (have no symptoms).

What causes Barmah Forest virus infection?

Barmah Forest virus is spread when a mosquito bites an infected animal or human and then bites a human.

Barmah Forest virus isn’t spread from person to person – there needs to be a mosquito.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have Barmah Forest virus symptoms, you should see a doctor.

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How is Barmah Forest virus infection diagnosed?

If you have symptoms of Barmah Forest virus infection, a doctor may run a blood test. This will show if you have antibodies to Barmah Forest virus.

They will then do a blood test 2 weeks later. This is to see if there has been a change in your antibody levels.

How is Barmah Forest virus infection treated?

There is no specific treatment for Barmah Forest virus infection. Treatment involves controlling your symptoms.

A mix of rest and gentle exercise is important. This helps to keep your joints moving and prevents overtiredness. Medicines may sometimes be needed.

Most people with Barmah Forest virus infection get better in a few weeks. Some people may have symptoms like joint pain for many months.

Can Barmah Forest virus infection be prevented?

There is currently no vaccine against Barmah Forest virus. To avoid Barmah Forest virus infection, you need to protect yourself from mosquito bites.

To decrease your chance of being bitten by mosquitoes:

  • cover up as much skin as possible
  • stay inside in the early morning and at dusk
  • screen your living areas
  • use an insect repellent when you are outside and there are mosquitoes around

Complications of Barmah Forest virus

Most people recover completely from Barmah Forest virus infection within a few weeks. A few people will have symptoms for several months. Very rarely a person will have symptoms for more than a year.

However, you can expect to recover fully.

Resources and support

To find out more about Barmah Forest virus you can call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available to speak with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

You can also download healthdirect's infographic guide to mosquito bites.

Information on staying safe around mosquitoes can be found on the Queensland Health website.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: February 2023

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