- 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
- 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.
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How will I be treated for Barmah Forest virus disease?
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.
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Last reviewed: March 2023