Barmah Forest virus
|Barmah Forest Virus|
|Structure of Barmah Forest virus by cryo-electron microscopy. |
|Group:||Group IV ((+)ssRNA)|
|Species:||Barmah Forest Virus|
Barmah Forest virus is an RNA virus in the Alphavirus genus. This disease was named after the location in Northern Victoria where it was first isolated in 1974. The first documented case in humans was in 1986.
As of 2015, it has been found only in Australia. Although there is no specific treatment for infection with the Barmah Forest virus, the disease is non-fatal and most infected people recover. The virus was discovered in 1974 in mosquitoes in the Barmah Forest in northern Victoria. The virus has gradually spread from the tropical northern areas of Australia to the coastal regions of New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia (WA). People are more likely to contract the disease in summer and autumn in Australia. In the south west of WA, however, spring has been found to have the highest incidence.
The virus can only be transmitted to humans by bites from infected mosquitoes. A number of mosquito species have been associated with vectoring the virus, including the Aedes vigilax and Culex annulirostris mosquito species. Direct contact with an infected person or animal does not cause infection. The virus is hosted mainly by marsupials, especially possums, kangaroos and wallabies.
Symptoms include fever, malaise, rash, arthralgia, and muscle tenderness. Fever and malaise generally disappear within a few days to a week, but other symptoms such as joint pain may continue for six months or longer.
Most people may recover within a few weeks, but the minority can continue to have the symptoms for many months, and in the most severe cases, up to a year. A full recovery will be expected.
The Barmah Forest virus is diagnosed by examination of blood serum collected from potentially infected people.
Barmah Forest Virus (BFV) is the second most prevalent arbovirus in Australia. It is causing an epidemic polyarthritis throughout the country. No known deaths have been caused as a result of BFV and can effect all people regardless of age, gender or ethnicity.
During the years of 1995–2008 15592 BFV cases were recorded in Australia. Of these, Queensland recorded the highest number of cases being 8050, which was over 50% of all cases. In 2011, 1855 people were diagnosed with BFV.
In recent years, there has been an increasing trend of the number of BFV cases around Australia. This increase could be as a result of urban development and changes to land and irrigation practices which ultimately allow for increased mosquito breeding resulting in more BFV outbreaks.
The type of mosquito that transmits the virus can alter: the best way to ascertain if your area is affected is by contact with local Health Officers. Precautions include:
- Removing water build-up to stop mosquitos from breeding.
- In the afternoon and early evening wear light coloured clothing which is loose fitted.
- Regular use of insect repellent which can be used against mosquitos on exposed skin.
- 'Knock-down' insecticide before bed to clear out your house.
- Insect screening, including fireplaces, in hot weather.
There is currently no specific treatment for the virus. The only treatment is trying to control and get rid of the symptoms that may occur. A doctor will advise and give treatment for the joint and muscle pain which involves resting and gentle exercise (to keep joints moving) . Medication may sometimes be necessary, but not always.
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