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.

Heavy rainfall and floods can lead to Ross River virus outbreaks.

Heavy rainfall and floods can lead to Ross River virus outbreaks.
beginning of content

Ross River virus

2-minute read

Ross River virus is carried by mosquitoes. Symptoms of infection include fever, rash and joint pain. 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.)

Causes and symptoms

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.

Diagnosis of Ross River virus

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.

Prevention against Ross River virus

There is no treatment or 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.

Last reviewed: December 2017

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

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 infection - including symptoms, treatment and prevention :: 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

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

Epidemic Polyarthritis (Ross River virus) | myVMC

Ross River virus or epidemic polyarthritis is a mosquito-borne infection which causes rash, fever and arthritis. It is prevented by avoiding mosquito bites.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Ross River Virus

Read more on Queensland Health website

Ross River virus in at-risk Australian blood donors: implications for blood supply safety | Australian Red Cross Blood Service

What was the question?We wanted to find out whether any of our donors in at risk areas were infected with the Ross River virus (RRV) during peak seasons for transmission of the disease. This information will be used to assess the risk of transmitting RRV through blood transfusion, and help us decide whether we need additional controls to keep the blood supply safe.Why is it important? Australian Red Cross Blood Service - Call 13 14 95 today to donate blood and save three lives

Read more on Australian Red Cross Blood Service website

Diseases transmitted by mosquitoes in Western Australia

In Western Australia, mosquitoes can transmit Ross River virus, Barmah Forest virus, Kunjin virus and the potentially fatal Murray Valley encephalitis virus. There is currently no cure or vaccine for any of these diseases. The only way to prevent infection is to avoid being bitten.

Read more on WA Health website

Ross River fever - Lab Tests Online AU

Site map of article content

Read more on Lab Tests Online website

Ross River virus and Barmah Forest virus

Ross River virus (RRV) and Barmah Forest virus (BFV) are the two most common mosquito-borne viruses in Western Australia and can cause severe symptoms in people.

Read more on WA Health website

Barmah Forest virus - Lab Tests Online AU

Site map of article content

Read more on Lab Tests Online website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information 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

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
Feedback