Key messages

  • In Victoria, the most common pathogens passed from mosquitoes to humans are viruses such as Ross River virus, Barmah Forest virus, West Nile strain Kunjin virus and the potentially fatal Murray Valley encephalitis virus.
  • The Framework for mosquito management in Victoria includes information about legislation, risk management, mosquito management and developing a local management program.

Since 1974, the Victorian Government has worked with other agencies including selecting local governments to deliver an integrated mosquito management program. 

This includes surveillance activities to monitor mosquito numbers and to test mosquitoes for viruses, mosquito control, investigations on infections of mosquito-borne diseases in humans, and community education to reduce mosquito bites. 

Funding to local councils

The Victorian Government provides funding to councils under the Victorian Government’s Arbovirus Disease Control Program to enhance their mosquito management activities.

It is up to each council to determine the measures best suited to their needs, but the focus is on reducing the risk of spread of mosquito-borne diseases, including Ross River virus and Murray Valley encephalitis virus. Activities might include trapping adult mosquitoes, testing sentinel chickens, larviciding and fogging.  

About arborvirus diseases

More than 275 species of mosquitoes are found in Australia. Fortunately, only a few species bite humans, and fewer still are vectors of human diseases.

Arboviruses are viruses transmitted by arthropods (arthropod-borne viruses). In Australia, the main arthropod vector is the mosquito. In Victoria, arbovirus diseases include:

Other arbovirus diseases reported in Victoria (such as dengue fever) have been acquired interstate or overseas.

Ross River and Barmah Forest virus diseases

Both Ross River virus disease and Barmah Forest virus disease are considered endemic throughout Victoria. The number of cases per year varies widely, depending on seasonal and other conditions

Ross River virus disease and Barmah Forest virus disease can be debilitating, but are not fatal.

Murray Valley encephalitis

Murray Valley encephalitis can be fatal. Major Murray Valley encephalitis outbreaks occurred in 1918, 1951 and 1956 in Victoria. The most recent reported cases were in 1974. In that year, 58 cases were recorded, 13 of which were fatal.

Changes to the Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations

On 14 December 2019, the Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2019 (the regulations) replaced the Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2009.

The new regulations will help reduce the risk of vector-borne diseases by broadening the scope of the existing regulations. They allow for the control of emerging and potential vector-borne disease risks.

In the summary, the changes include:

  • replacing 'arbovirus infection control' with 'vector-borne infectious disease control' and broadening the scope of infectious disease control regulation to include other disease vectors, not just mosquitoes
  • defining 'disease vector' so that an animal, including a bird or insect, can be the subject of infectious disease control
  • establishing obligations on owners and occupiers of premises to take reasonable steps to control mosquito breeding grounds and abate conditions conducive to their establishment
  • allowing an authorised officer to direct an owner or occupier of a premises to take steps to control any mosquito breeding ground and control the adult mosquito population on the premises
  • introducing a Chief Health Officer authority to issue a disease vector control notice to address a material public health risk caused by a disease vector
  • allowing an authorised officer to direct an owner or occupier of a premises to control a disease vector (as specified in a disease vector control notice).

What do the changes mean?

Mosquito control 

The new obligation on owners and occupiers of premises to control breeding grounds or abate conditions conductive to their establishment is based on taking reasonable steps to reduce risk.

This complements the existing non-regulatory measures to control mosquito breeding under the Victorian Arbovirus (mosquito-borne) Disease Control Program.

Disease vector control

It is intended that the Chief Health Officer would use the disease vector control notice in limited circumstances and only if satisfied a material risk (substantial risk of harm) to public health exists from a disease vector. This means in instances where a transmission risk is known to be connected in the community.

Examples of when a disease vector control notice may be considered

Example 1

Leptospirosis is an infectious disease that is transmitted from animals to humans. Common sources of infection are contact with the urine of infected animals and/or contaminated soil or water.

Increase in Leptospirosis in a particular area of Victoria are often linked to rodent infestations. If a local community is affected, the Chief Health Officer could issue a disease vector control notice, which could require the introduction of specified rodent control measures. 

Local government affected community members and the department would work together to achieve disease reduction.

Mosquito management framework

Framework for mosquito management in Victoria provides guidance for the development of mosquito management programs throughout the state. The framework provides information about legislation, risk management, mosquito management and developing a local management program.