Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Barmah Forest virus infection

5-minute read

Key facts

  • Barmah Forest virus is transmitted by mosquitoes from animals to humans, and can cause you to feel unwell.
  • If you are infected with the virus, your symptoms may include fever, headache and painful, swollen joints.
  • Most people recover from the Barmah Forest virus in a few days.
  • The best way to prevent catching Barmah Forest virus is to protect yourself from mosquito bites.

What is Barmah Forest virus?

Barmah Forest virus is transmitted by mosquitoes from animals to humans. Animals carrying this virus are usually marsupials, such as a possums, kangaroos or wallabies. The virus is passed to humans by infected mosquitos.

It cannot be passed directly from human to human, so you can’t become infected through contact with a person who has the virus.

This virus is only found in Australia and can be found throughout most regions, particularly west of the Great Dividing Range.

You’re more likely to get Barmah Forest virus if you spend a lot of time outside, especially in and around wetlands or rivers. An infection with the virus is not fatal — if you catch Barmah Forest virus, you will recover.

What are the symptoms of Barmah Forest virus disease?

Your symptoms usually start about 3 to 11 days after you’re bitten by an infected mosquito and may include:

  • fever and chills
  • headache
  • tiredness
  • swollen joints, joint pain and muscle tenderness
  • rash (mainly on the trunk of your body or your limbs)
  • swollen lymph glands

You’re likely to feel unwell for just a few days. In rare cases, joint pain, tiredness and muscle tenderness may continue for up to 6 months.

Some people with the virus don’t have symptoms, especially if they are children.

How can I be diagnosed with Barmah Forest virus disease?

If you have symptoms, your doctor may recommend a blood test to check if you have antibodies to Barmah Forest virus. You will need to have this blood test while you’re feeling unwell, and then again 2 weeks later. If there’s a change in antibody levels, your doctor may diagnose Barmah Forest virus disease.

If you test positive for Barmah Forest virus, your doctor will notify the Department of Health and Aged Care, so they can try to control the virus’ spread and reduce it’s effect on the community.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

How will I be treated for Barmah Forest virus disease?

There’s no specific treatment for Barmah Forest virus disease. Your doctor may recommend rest, paracetamol for pain and fever and drinking plenty of fluids. Sometimes you may not need any medicine.

Most people recover within a few weeks.

How can I prevent Barmah Forest virus?

The best way to prevent catching Barmah Forest virus is to protect yourself from mosquito bites. Currently, there is no vaccine against the virus.

To reduce your chance of being bitten by mosquitoes (as well as midges):

  • Cover up as much skin as possible with light coloured clothing and closed shoes.
  • Stay inside in the early morning or at dusk.
  • Use insect screens in living areas to cover windows, doors and vents.
  • Remove any containers holding standing water where mosquitoes may breed.
  • Make sure you use an insect repellent when you are outside and there are mosquitoes around. In particular, use repellents designed to repel mosquitoes, which contain diethyltoluamide (DEET), picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
  • Cover prams and cots with mosquito nets, as insect repellents are not recommended for infants.

Resources and support

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

Last reviewed: March 2023

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Barmah Forest Virus

Barmah Forest Virus Category: Infections and Parasites Topic: Viral Infections Send by email View as PDF Send by post Barmah Forest virus is the name given to a virus that is carried by mosquitoes

Read more on Queensland Health website

Barmah Forest virus infection - including symptoms, treatment and prevention | SA Health

Barmah Forest virus infection is spread to humans by mosquito bites - mosquitoes bite animals infected with Barmah Forest virus and bite humans.

Read more on SA Health website

Barmah Forest virus fact sheet - Fact sheets

Barmah Forest virus is transmitted to people by being bitten by a mosquito that is infected with the virus. Symptoms include fever, rash and sore joints. Avoiding mosquito bites prevents infection.​

Read more on NSW Health website

Barmah Forest virus infection | Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care

Find out how we define and monitor cases of Barmah Forest virus infection, and where you can learn more about this disease.

Read more on Department of Health and Aged Care website

Barmah Forest virus infection - Better Health Channel

Barmah Forest virus (BFV) disease can cause joint inflammation and pain, fatigue and a rash of variable appearance. A full recovery can be expected. Most people recover completely within six months, although some people have intermittent symptoms for longer.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Ross River virus — Arthritis Australia

Ross River virus and Barmah Forest virus are infections that are spread to humans through mosquito bites

Read more on Arthritis Australia website

Hazards after cyclones, floods and other disasters

There are many hazards to consider after cyclones, floods and other disasters including asbestos contamination, mosquitoes, poisons, chemicals, pesticides, snakes, rodents and other wildlife.

Read more on WA Health website

Water tanks and dams – safety tips | National Centre for Farmer Health

Water tanks, dams and channels on farms are an essential source of water for drinking, livestock and irrigation needs. However they can pose serious risks. Children can drown in tanks and dams, water can be contaminated and accidents can happen when tanks are being cleaned. Read more...

Read more on National Centre for Farmer Health website

Ross River virus infection | SA Health

Ross River virus infection is spread by mosquitoes from infected animals to humans - a distinctive and distressing feature of infection is joint pain

Read more on SA Health website

Chikungunya | NT.GOV.AU

Where chikungunya is found, how it spreads, symptoms, treatment, control and protection from mosquitoes.

Read more on NT Health website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.