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Vic floods bring mozzies, health warnings

AAP logoAAP 27/10/2016 Kaitlyn Offer

Heavy rains that flooded Victoria are behind an increased swarm of mosquitoes across the state, prompting public health concerns.

Seven flood-affected local governments have brought forward their mosquito management plans to reduce numbers - Mildura, Swan Hill, Gannawarra, Campaspe, Moira, Wodonga and Shepparton.

La Trobe University environmental management and ecology expert Susan Lawler says flooded paddocks are filled with "still, warm water" creating the perfect conditions for mosquito breeding.

"We'll have them around for a few more weeks yet until the weather starts drying up," Dr Lawler said.

Victorians are urged by the Department of Health and Human Services to protect themselves to prevent contracting diseases including Ross River, Barmah Forest and Murray Valley encephalitis virus.

The department says it is rare for mosquitoes to carry Murray Valley encephalitis, an infection that can cause the brain to swell, leading to brain damage or death, with the last human case recorded in 1974.

However, the virus has since been detected in sentinel chicken flocks - birds placed in at-risk areas to help the surveillance of the spread of diseases.

In 2015, there were 301 reported cases of Ross River Virus and 11 cases of Barmah Forest virus.

"We are starting our efforts to control mosquitoes early this year as heavy rain has provided perfect breeding conditions," Victoria's Chief Health Officer Charles Guest said in a statement.

"There are simple and inexpensive steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones."

HOW TO REDUCE THE RISK OF MOSQUITO-BORNE DISEASE INFECTION:

- Wear long, loose fitting clothing because mosquitoes can bite through tight fitting clothing.

- Use effective mosquito repellents containing DEET or picaridin on all exposed skin.

- Control mosquito numbers with "knockdown sprays" or vaporising devices for inside use, including caravans.

- Install flyscreens on windows and self-closing wire screen doors.

- Remove stagnant water at least every week, including in flower pots, tyres, buckets, tins, bird baths and pet bowls.

- Empty children's wading pools when not being used and keep fishponds stocked with fish.

- Use mosquito nets or screens when camping

- Limit outdoor activity at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.

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