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

Ross River virus

3-minute read

Ross River virus is an infection that is spread to humans through mosquitoes. Symptoms of infection include joint pain, fever and rash. Most people recover in a few weeks, but symptoms can continue for months.

The virus can be found anywhere in Australia but is more common in Queensland, the Northern Territory and the Kimberly region of Western Australia between January and April, especially after heavy rainfall or high tides. About 4,000 people get the virus every year, and it is becoming more common on the fringes of urban areas.

(Ross River virus is both the name of the virus, and the name of the condition it causes. It is also known as Ross River fever and epidemic polyarthritis.)

What are the causes and symptoms of Ross River virus?

Ross River virus is spread when the bite of an infected mosquito allows the virus to enter the bloodstream. By the time symptoms appear, the virus will have spread throughout the body.

Many people who have Ross River virus never develop symptoms. If symptoms do appear, it can be at any time between 3 days and 3 weeks after the person is bitten by an infected mosquito.

The most common symptom is pain in the joints — mainly the fingers, toes, hands, feet, elbows and knees. Other symptoms include:

Symptoms usually ease within 3 to 6 months. Visit your doctor if you are concerned or need relief from symptoms.

How is Ross River virus diagnosed?

Your doctor can diagnose Ross River virus by examining you and checking whether you live in or have recently travelled to an area where there is a high risk of becoming infected.

Having a blood test to measure your levels of antibodies to the infection can allow your doctor to confirm a diagnosis of Ross River virus.

How is Ross River virus treated?

There is no known cure for Ross River virus, but painkillers such as paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help relieve the symptoms. Most people will recover in time.

How can Ross River virus be prevented?

There is no vaccine for Ross River virus, so prevention is important. Mosquitoes live in still water and outbreaks of Ross River virus can occur when and where they breed. These times include after heavy rainfalls, when both humidity and water levels are high.

You can protect yourself against Ross River virus by:

  • staying indoors at dawn and dusk when mosquitos are most active
  • using insect repellants
  • covering up when outside, with light coloured clothing and covered footwear
  • burning citronella candles and mosquito coils
  • covering windows, doors, vents and other entrances with screens
  • sleeping under a mosquito net

If you also make sure you do not have any pools of still water around your house, that will reduce the number of mosquitoes

Learn more about insect bites and how to prevent them here.

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

Last reviewed: January 2020


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Ross River Virus

Ross River virus (sometimes called epidemic polyarthritis) is a disease caused by a virus which is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Read more on Queensland Health website

Ross River Virus

Ross River Virus Category: Infections and Parasites Topic: Viral Infections Send by email View as PDF Send by post Ross River virus (sometimes called epidemic polyarthritis) is a disease caused by a virus which is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito

Read more on Queensland Health website

Ross River virus - myDr.com.au

Ross River virus infection is spread by the bites of infected female mosquitoes. Most sufferers will have a sudden onset of flu-like symptoms that often include painful joints.

Read more on myDr 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

Ross River virus testing - Lab Tests Online AU

Test information not available yet

Read more on Lab Tests Online AU website

Ross River fever - Lab Tests Online AU

Ross River fever is a common cause of arthritis in Australia acquired through a mosquito bite.

Read more on Lab Tests Online AU website

Barmah Forest virus - Lab Tests Online AU

Barmah Forest virus is a common cause of arthritis transmitted by mosquito bites with symptoms including joint & muscle pain, fever, headaches and fatigue.

Read more on Lab Tests Online AU website

Types of arthritis — Arthritis Australia

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of joint disease

Read more on Arthritis Australia website

Viral infections - NT.GOV.AU

Read more on NT Health website

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

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 Government of Western Australia, health department logo