What is Barmah Forest Virus: Spread, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention, Diagnosis

What is Barmah Forest Virus?

The Barmah Forest Virus belongs to the Alpha virus group which in turn is a part of the Togaviridae category. It is a arthropod borne disease causing virus that makes a person fall ill. This Barmah Forest Virus causes infection which is a part of the Ross River Virus group. Barmah Forest Virus is transmitted by the mosquitoes from the animals to the humans and this disease is only a part of Australia and hasn’t spread over the other parts of the world as yet. It is not a life threatening disease that can become the cause of death of any human and goes away by itself.

Spreading of the Barmah Forest Virus

This particular virus is carried by the mosquitoes, specially mosquitoes like Aedes vigilax, Aedes notoscriptus, Aedes camptorhynchus, Aedes normanensis, Aedes procax and Culex annulirostris and transferred from the animals to humans. The disease is mostly found in marsupial animals like kangaroos, wallabies, and possums. Humans get infected by Barmah Forest Virus due to mosquito bites. If a mosquito bites a human after getting infected due to biting the marsupial animals then a person is likely to fall ill cause of the Barmah Forest Virus. It is not a fatal disease and mostly people recuperate themselves from this disease. This virus was discovered in 1974 is the Barmah forest region of the state Victoria in Australia1. Later on the disease started spreading from the northern Victorian region to the coastal areas of Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland. However the infection caused by the Barmah Forest Virus doesn’t spread while coming in contact with the infected person. It can only be transferred through mosquitoes from animals to humans or through animals to animals.

Symptoms of Barmah Forest Virus

Most of the people infected by this virus don’t usually have any known symptoms whereas it generally develops symptoms within 7 days to 10 days’ time span in other cases. However the symptoms that occur during the infection include:

  • People may get rashes on their limbs and torso or trunk. A person being affected by the particular disease may also have redness of the skin.
  • Joint pains are quite common in Barmah Forest Virus. The infected person can have pain in different joints of the body which may not seem to last for at least 6 months and sometimes it may also become quite severe at several places. It causes discomfort to the person and may cause pain in ankles, knees, fingers, elbow, shoulders, jaw and wrist.
  • Certain people may also face stiffening as well as swelling of the joints accompanied by pain. It becomes very difficult to move and work in such a condition.
  • Apart from swelling and pain in the joints a person may also face pain in their muscles.

People generally tend to get tired when infected by the particular virus. Lethargy is a very common problem related to such an infection. A person feels weak all the time and doesn’t have the energy to work. They may also feel dizzy almost all the time.

  • The Barmah Forest Virus may cause a person to develop symptoms like flu, such as fever, headaches and chills.
  • They may also cause the swelling of the lymphoid tissues which may become painful at times, especially during movement.

Most of the people usually heal within a span of few months though there are cases in which a person takes almost a year to regain back to his original health. In case a person seems to continue having the symptoms for more than 6 months may have different medical issues apart from the Barmah Forest Virus infection.

Diagnosis of the Barmah Forest Virus(3)

Any disease needs to be diagnosed before a person seeks treatment for it. In case of Barmah Forest Virus the doctor may take samples of the infected person’s blood to test it in the lab and find out whether it is actually the disease or not because there are multiple other diseases with similar kind of symptoms. The doctors generally check the increment of the antibody level in the Barmah Forest Virus IgG, in the presence of which they may conduct the Barmah Forest Virus specific IgM. Though the doctors may also conduct isolation of the Barmah Forest Virus or the nucleic acid test, it is beneficial only during the early stage of the disease and the Barmah Forest Virus needs to be differentiated from Ross River Virus Infection, Dengue, Rubella, Q fever, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Infectious Mononucleosis and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.

Treatment of the Barmah Forest Virus

There are no anti-biotic present for Barmah Forest Virus(2) but a person may take medicines to get relieved from the symptoms the person must be facing due to such a disease. Medicines like aspirin and paracetamol can be taken to get rid of headaches, fever and other muscle and joint pain but must be kept out of reach of the children below 12 years unless prescribed by the doctor. Doctors may also prescribe anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen to yield comfort to the person suffering from Barmah Forest Virus. A person may also take in a lot of fluid foods as it provides strength to the person as he does feel weak and lethargic and also helps in flushing out the virus from our system. Gentle exercises help in the movement of the limbs of the person along with ample amount of rest. Alcohol, emotional stress and feebleness may add to the suffering.

Preventing the Barmah Forest Virus Disease

One must always avoid mosquito prone areas as these mosquitoes are the cause of a number of fatal diseases that the human beings face which may cost their life. In case at all if they need to go then one must at least avoid going during the dawn and dusk part of the day. At this point of time the mosquitoes are found to be most active and their bite can take a toll on the particular person after being bitten. There are certain necessary steps that a person can take to protect him-self against such a viral infection caused by Barmah Forest Virus. While going to a mosquito prone area one must always keep in mind certain protective measures to safe-guard himself against those mosquitoes. The person must always use a mosquito repellent crème all the time as these mosquitoes are not always restricted to a certain place and may come in contact with us at any point. One must wear light colored clothes which are long and loosely fitted. One must ensure to put on fly-screens at all their windows and other openings of the house as this may help to keep the mosquitoes away. We must clean every possible place having stagnant water which may result in breeding of the mosquitoes be it containers holding waters, drains, etc. If a person stores up water in a container he must change it every 2 to 3 days.

Conclusion

The Barmah Forest Virus is till date confined within Australia and was first found in the Barmah State Forest of the Murray Valley which then spread to different parts of Australia. The infections are at peak between the months, December to March. This infection is most widely spread during the spring season. The average count of people falling sick with such a viral infection is about 700 every year but rises to 2000 when there are high-tides, flooding or rise in temperature. However the infection caused by the Barmah Forest Virus is less found in children. Once a person gets infected by such a virus he can be rest assured for not being infected again by the similar virus. Barmah Forest Virus though not quite a fatal disease yet one must take protective measures to keep all these infections at bay.

References:  

  1. Marshall ID, Woodroofe GM, Hirsch S. Viruses recovered from mosquitoes and wildlife serum collected in the Murray Valley of south-eastern Australia, February 1974, during an epidemic of encephalitis. Aust J Exp Biol Med Sci. 1982;60(pt 5):457–70.
  2. http://access.health.qld.gov.au/hid/InfectionsandParasites/ViralInfections/barmahForestVirus_fs.asp
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3720699/

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