THE North Coast Public Health Unit is reminding residents and visitors to the Mid North Coast to protect themselves against mosquitoes which are increasing in numbers as summer progresses.
"Mosquito numbers increase in summer and when there is water lying around," said Kerryn Lawrence, Senior Environmental Health Officer.
"As it is predicted that rainfall will be above average over the next three months, there will be more mosquito breeding sites around and a greater risk of being bitten."
Ross River and Barmah Forest viruses are common in the mid north coast and are transmitted by infected mosquitoes that breed in flooded, grassy and swampy areas and around waterways. On average in each year over the past decade about 500 people living on NSW north coast were diagnosed with either Ross River virus or Barmah Forest virus - in about equal numbers (about 250 cases of each are reported on average each year.)
Compared to the NSW average, people living on north coast are five to eight times more likely to be infected with Barmah Forest virus and three to five times more likely to be infected with Ross River virus.
Simple steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes include:
* When outside cover up as much as possible with light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing and covered footwear. \
* Use an effective repellent on all exposed skin. Re-apply repellent within a few hours, as protection wears off with perspiration. The best mosquito repellents contain Diethyl Toluamide (DEET) or Picaridin.
* Light mosquito coils or use vapourising mats indoors. Devices that use light to attract and electrocute insects are not effective.
* Cover all windows, doors, vents and other entrances with insect screens.
* When camping, use flyscreens on caravans and tents or sleep under mosquito nets.
"Preventing these viruses depends on avoiding mosquito bites, especially in the warmer months of the year when mosquitoes are most active," Mrs Lawrence said.