Summer Planning Toolkit modules

Module 5: Acute illness, including viruses

Water-borne and vector-borne disease

Water-borne and vector-borne disease

The threat of both waterborne illnesses and vector-borne viruses can increase over the summer months, including in areas not known for vector-borne presentations (eg in southern states). The RACGP has developed a fact sheet to help practices prepare for and respond to water and vector-borne illnesses. GPs are encouraged to watch for public health alerts on unfamiliar diseases via their state and territory health departments.

Water-borne diseases

Water-borne diseases caused by contaminated drinking water during and after floods include hepatitis A, gastroenteritis, leptospirosis and melioidosis. Practices can prevent patient and staff exposure to these diseases by ensuring an adequate supply of clean drinking water and by wearing protective clothing when assisting with clean-up efforts 28.

Vector-borne viruses

There is an increased likelihood of vector-borne viruses following flooding, as standing water can provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Vector-borne viruses include Barmah Forest Virus, Ross River virus, Dengue fever 28 and Japanese encephalitis.

Contraction of mosquito-borne viruses can be mitigated by using insect repellents, wearing light coloured protective clothing, avoiding the outdoors during times where mosquito infestation may be higher (eg in evenings during warmer months), using screens and checking your practice for areas where mosquitoes are more likely to breed (eg emptying uncovered water containers) 28.

Ross River virus

Ross River virus, also known as Ross River fever and epidemic polyarthritis, is spread to humans via mosquitoes. Symptoms include joint pain and swelling, fever headache, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes and rash. While most people recover within a few weeks, others may continue to experience symptoms for months after infection 44.