How long does Ross River virus last for

How Ross River virus is spread

The infection is spread by mosquitoes from infected animals to humans.

Native animals such as wallabies and kangaroos are thought to be the main animals involved in the cycle of infection.

When a female mosquito feeds on the blood of an infected animal, the mosquito may become infected with the virus. The virus may then be passed on to humans or other animals when the mosquito feeds again.

In large outbreaks mosquitoes may also spread the virus from infected people to other people.

Signs and symptoms

Many people infected with Ross River virus, particularly children, have no symptoms. The severity of symptoms increases with age.

Symptoms vary from person-to-person and may include:

  • fever
  • chills
  • muscle aches
  • rash
  • fatigue
  • aching tendons
  • swollen lymph nodes.
  • headache, especially behind the eyes
  • joint pain, swelling and stiffness.

The most distinctive and distressing feature of Ross River virus infection is usually joint pain. Any joint in the body may be affected, but the most common sites are the wrists, knees, ankles, fingers, elbows, shoulders and jaw. The pain may be more severe in different joints at different times.

In most cases, symptoms disappear within 6 weeks, though some people may still have symptoms after a year or two and the symptoms may come and go. About 10% of people have ongoing depression and fatigue.


Diagnosis is made by a blood test. Other illnesses with similar symptoms may need to be excluded.


There is no specific antiviral treatment for Ross River virus and no vaccine to prevent infection. Paracetamol may be used to treat pain and fever. Aspirin should not be given to children under 12 years of age unless specifically recommended by a doctor.

The Arthritis SA (opens in a new window) provides a very helpful fact sheet on dealing with the symptoms.


  • Exclusion from childcare, preschool, school or work is not necessary.
  • Self protection from mosquito bites is the key to prevention.
  • Personal protection and the environmental management of mosquitoes are important in preventing illness. See Fight the Bite for tips on how to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

Ross River virus (RRV) disease can cause joint inflammation and pain, fatigue and muscle aches. Many infected people also develop a rash of variable appearance. Most people recover completely within a year, although some people have intermittent symptoms for a year or more. Ross River virus disease is caused by an alpha-virus, which is spread by mosquitoes. Approximately 30 per cent of people infected with the virus will develop symptoms three to 11 days after being infected with others developing symptoms up to 21 days after the exposure. When in mosquito-prone areas, wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing and use insect repellent to help reduce the chance of being bitten by mosquitoes.

Other symptoms of Ross River virus disease

Ross River virus disease can also cause: 

  • a rash of variable appearance on the trunk and limbs affects many people with this virus. It usually occurs one to 10 days after the onset of arthritis and can last up to seven to 10 days
  • enlargement of lymph nodes, especially in the groin or the armpit
  • a feeling of ‘pins and needles’ and tenderness on the soles of one’s feet and palms of one’s hands (in a small number of infected people). 

What is Ross River virus disease?

Ross River virus disease (RRVD) is spread through mosquito bites. About 55%–75% of people who are infected do not feel sick. For those who do feel sick, symptoms of RRVD include joint pain and swelling, muscle pain, fever, tiredness, and rash. Most patients recover within a few weeks, but some people experience joint pain, joint stiffness, or tiredness for many months.

Who is at risk?

Travelers who go to Australia and Papua New Guinea are at risk for RRVD. Travelers who plan to spend a lot of time outdoors or who will be in areas with a lot of mosquitoes are at increased risk of RRVD. Disease risk is lower during the colder winter months. Ross River virus infection is the most common mosquito-related infection in Australia.

What can travelers do to prevent RRVD?

No vaccine or medicine can prevent RRVD. The only way to prevent RRVD is to prevent mosquito bites.

  • Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats.
  • Use an appropriate insect repellent as directed.
  • Higher percentages of active ingredient provide longer protection. Use products with the following active ingredients:
    • DEET (Products containing DEET include Off!, Cutter, Sawyer, and Ultrashort)
    • Pericardia (also known as KB R 3023, Bay repel, and cardinal products containing pericardia include Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus, and Au tan [outside the US])
    • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or PMD (Products containing OLE include Repel and Off! Botanical)
    • IR3535  (Products containing IR3535 include Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition and Skin Smart)
  • Always follow product directions and reapply as directed:
  • If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second.
  • Follow package directions when applying repellent on children. Avoid applying repellent to their hands, eyes, and mouth.
  • Use permeation-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents). You can buy per-treated clothing and gear or treat them yourself:
  • Treated clothing remains protective after multiple washings. See the product information to find out how long the protection will last.
  • If treating items yourself, follow the product instructions carefully.
  • Do not use permeation directly on skin.
  • Stay and sleep in screened or air conditioned rooms.
  • Use a bed net if the area where you are sleeping is exposed to the outdoors.

Ross River fever fact sheet

Ross River fever is caused by a viral infection, transmitted through mosquito bites. Symptoms include fever, rash, and joint pains. Prevention relies on avoiding mosquito bites. Last updated: 01 May 2016

What is Ross River fever?

Ross River fever is caused by infection with Ross River virus, one of a group of viruses called retroviruses (or arthropod-borne viruses), which are spread by the bite of infected mosquitoes.

What are the symptoms?

Many people who are infected with the virus will never develop symptoms.

  • Some people will have flu-like symptoms that include fever, chills, headache and aches and pains in the muscles and joints.
  • Some joints can become swollen, and joint stiffness may be particularly noticeable in the morning.
  • Sometimes a rash occurs on the body, arms or legs. The rash usually disappears after 7 to 10 days.
  • A general feeling of being unwell, tired or weak may also occur at times during the illness.
  • Symptoms usually develop about 7-10 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
  • The majority of people recover completely in a few weeks. Others may experience symptoms such as joint pain and tiredness for many months.

How is the virus spread?

The virus is spread by certain types of female mosquitoes.

  • Female mosquitoes feed on animals and people. If they feed on the blood of an infected animal, the mosquito may become infected. The virus then multiplies within the mosquito and is passed to other animals or people when the mosquito feeds again.
  • The number of infections tends to peak in the summer and autumn months.
  • The virus is not spread directly from one person to another.

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