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Infectious diseases

Infectious-diseasesLike all countries, Australia is home to viruses and bacteria such as influenza, chicken pox, meningococcal, hepatitis, and measles. There are, however, a few lesser-known viruses here as well. Thankfully, your chances of catching them are very small. You should be aware they exist as, depending on where you live in the country, you may be exposed to them.

Dengue Fever

The Dengue Fever virus is carried by mosquitoes. In Australia the only outbreaks have been in Queensland. Symptoms of the fever include a high temperature, nausea, pain in the joints, fatigue, and intense headache.

In rare instances Dengue Fever can develop into Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever, which can sometimes be fatal. It usually occurs in children under 15 years of age. Although an estimated 40,000 people around the world die from Dengue Fever every year, it has claimed fewer than 10 Australian lives in the past 100 years.

There is currently no treatment or vaccination for Dengue Fever however the Australian Government is currently trialling a bacterium that prevents mosquitoes from transmitting the virus to humans. Interestingly, there are four types of Dengue Fever, all of which are carried by mosquitoes that bite during the day.

Hendra Virus

Hendra virus is a rare but interesting disease that was only discovered in 1994. Native fruit bats, called flying foxes, carry the Hendra virus. However, all cases in humans have been transmitted via horses. It is believed that the horses pick up Hendra by eating grass under trees, which has been contaminated by bat urine and faeces.

Symptoms are flu-like fever, headache, joint pain and fatigue. Hendra has claimed four lives since 1994. In all cases, the victims developed encephalitis (swelling of the brain) and fell into a coma. The disease has only occurred in Queensland and northern NSW.

Ross River Fever

Ross River Fever is contracted via a viral infection from the bite of an infected mosquito. The disease occurs in all states and territories of Australia and much of the South Pacific, and is most common from January to March, when mosquitoes are most active.

The disease was named after Ross River in north Queensland, where the disease was discovered in 1959. Most infections occur during the wet season in Australia’s tropical north, across Western Australia, the Northern Territory, and Queensland.

Symptoms include nausea, fever, headache, skin rash, joint pain and tiredness. Ross River Fever is not life threatening but in some cases, fatigue and lethargy can last for several months.


Tuberculosis (TB) is an airborne disease, spread by an infected person. Around 1000 cases of tuberculosis are diagnosed in Australia every year. Over 80 per cent of people in Australia with TB were born overseas.

Symptoms include a persistent cough, fever, fatigue, and loss of appetite. TB is particularly dangerous for people who have weakened immune systems from medications or illness. It can be treated with a course of antibiotics.

Whooping Cough

Whooping cough, or Pertussis, is transmitted from an infected person in much the same way as Tuberculosis. Although anyone can be infected by whooping cough, it is most dangerous to babies, and in some cases can be lethal.

Vaccinations exist for whooping cough; however, there have been recent outbreaks of the disease in Australia that are immune to these drugs.

Symptoms are cold-like to begin with, but can develop into a persistent and uncontrollable cough. A sticky phlegm often affects the respiratory system, which can cause complications for babies.