Protecting against mosquito-borne diseases
A range of mosquito-borne diseases have recently been detected in mosquitoes in northern Victoria. Some mosquito-borne diseases can cause serious illness, including infections of the brain.
Advice has been provided to services in high-risk local government areas (LGAs) to assist in keeping early childhood communities safe during this risk period.
FAQs for early childhood education and care services
Why are services receiving this advice?
The Victorian Department of Health has detected Murray Valley encephalitis (MVE) virus and other similar viruses in mosquitoes across northern Victoria. This means that the MVE virus is circulating in the mosquito population, and the risk of human cases is very high.
Currently high-risk LGAs include Benalla, Buloke, Campaspe, Gannawarra, Greater Bendigo, Greater Shepparton, Hindmarsh, Horsham, Indigo, Loddon, Mildura, Moira, Northern Grampians Shire, Strathbogie, Swan Hill, Wangaratta, West Wimmera, Wodonga, and Yarriambiack. Public health authorities are working to manage this increased risk. Your efforts to promote healthy behaviours and control mosquitoes are part of a broader campaign to reduce the risk of mosquito-borne illness across the community.
Is insect repellent safe to use?
All topical insect repellents sold in Australia must be registered with the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), which assesses products for their efficacy and safety.
Topical insect repellents containing DEET and picaridin are safe and effective when used according to the instructions on the label. They are widely used and strongly recommended to reduce risk of mosquito bites. There are many products available. Always check the label for suitability, including the age range.
A higher concentration of DEET or picaridin does not relate to better effectiveness, only how long the repellent lasts. A lower concentration (i.e. 10 – 20%) is recommended – reapply regularly as required.
If a child is unable to use a recommended insect repellent due to their age or for other reasons, other mosquito prevention measures should be followed.
How do I safely use insect repellent on children?
Children and staff should be encouraged to wear insect repellents that contain picaridin or DEET. Always follow instructions on the product label for recommended age use.
Services may purchase insect repellent for staff and children to use at the service. Using repellent is strongly recommended. You should discuss this with parents, to ensure there are no issues with allergies or sensitivities to products.
A thin, even layer of insect repellent should be applied to all exposed skin and rubbed in to ensure no spots are missed. Avoid applying repellent to a child’s hands, eyes and mouth.
Staff should follow the below guidance for repellent use:
- Use only as directed by the instructions on the label.
- Sharing roll-on between children is safe, but children with skin infections should use their own product.
- If you need to apply both sunscreen and repellent, apply the sunscreen first.
- Repellent is not water-resistant. It may need to be reapplied frequently, particularly if sweating from heat or exercise.
- Do not use on cuts, wounds or irritated skin.
- Supervise use by younger children and store repellents out of reach of children.
- Always discontinue use if any skin irritation occurs and seek medical advice as required.
Where a child has a known allergy to insect repellent or opts not to use repellent, other mosquito protection measures should be followed.
How do I protect children under 12 months from mosquito-borne disease?
In high-risk LGAs, when mosquito activity is observed, children under 12 months should be kept indoors. Where this is not possible, it is best if infants are wearing long, loose clothing and use insect nets to cover as much exposed skin as possible.
When using repellent, consult the label and always follow the instructions. Note: Some formulation labels may state “not suitable for children under 12 months of age” or provide similar advice.
How do I buy insect repellent?
Services can order insect repellent from a variety of retailers, including chemists and supermarkets.
Services should select repellent with the lowest concentration of DEET or picaridin available (e.g. 10%) and reapply as required. Lower concentration repellents may include Aerogard Odourless Protection; RID Medicated Insect Repellent Kids + Antiseptic Repellent; and RID Medicated Insect Repellent Low Irritant + Antiseptic Repellent. Higher concentrations do not relate to better effectiveness, only how long the repellent lasts.
Is Bush Kinder considered an outdoor event?
Mosquito control through residual barrier treatments
What are residual barrier treatments?
A residual barrier treatment is used for mosquito control. It is an insecticide that is thinly applied to surfaces where mosquitoes may hide and breed. Adult mosquitoes die when they come in contact with this thin layer. These types of treatments are similar to commonly available treatments that can be purchased at the supermarket or hardware stores.
Why are residual barrier treatments used? Why are we being asked to undertake this treatment?
Mosquito control via residual barrier treatments is commonly used in a range of public and community settings is part of a comprehensive mosquito management approach.
Some services in Victoria routinely apply these treatments.
If your service operates within a high-risk LGA, it is recommended that you engage a contractor to apply residual barrier treatments to your service as soon as possible to protect the health of children and staff.
Are residual barrier treatments safe?
When used according to product label instructions, residual barrier treatments are safe, effective, and not harmful to children.
All products used for mosquito control in Australia must be registered with the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), which assesses products for their efficacy and safety.
How long does a chemical residual barrier last?
This will depend on the chemical used. Check with your pest controller when it is applied. Some settings may require a second application after the initial treatment. The timing of reapplication will depend on the product used.
When does a residual barrier treatment need to occur?
It is recommended that services in high-risk LGAs arrange treatment as soon as possible. Reapplication may be required after a period of time – check with your pest controller when it is applied.
While waiting for residual treatments to be applied, your service should continue to reduce the risk of mosquito bites by promoting safe behaviours (e.g. insect repellents, appropriate clothing, avoid outdoor exposure) and maintaining the buildings and grounds.
Who is able to conduct a residual barrier treatment?
In Victoria, any person who carries on the business of controlling, destroying or repelling pests must be licensed as a pest control operator under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008. Licensed pest control operators are qualified to undertake this work.
People without licenses can also undertake this work where pest control is not the primary business they conduct. It is not uncommon for cleaning and building maintenance contractors to undertake secondary pest control activities. In these instances, people should still have sufficient knowledge to be able to safely and effectively undertake these tasks, and to meet legal obligations around the use of registered agricultural chemicals.
Services can find a licensed pest control operator at: Find a licensed pest control operator (health.vic.gov.au).
How much will a residual barrier treatment cost?
The cost of a treatment will depend on the provider, the size of the area requiring treatment and the chemical used.
What am I requesting the pest control operator or contractor to do?
Services should request contractors to apply a residual barrier treatment to outdoor areas and surfaces to reduce the risk of mosquito-borne disease. The Department of Health recommends treatments that require less frequent re-applications such as products containing bifenthrin, alpha-cypermethrin or lambda-cypermethrin.
Sprays should be applied to places where mosquitoes rest, such as external surfaces of buildings, sheds, vegetation, fences, and outdoor infrastructure where mosquitoes are most likely to congregate
Services should also direct the contractor to treat areas known to have high number of mosquitoes. Services should also direct pest controllers to any ponds or open drainage on the site to assess the need for larvicide treatments.
Do I need to close the service when the treatment is applied?
The contractor who is applying the treatment is best placed to provide your service with specific information about safety and re-entry to treated areas. In most instances, services will not be required to close, but staff and children should avoid the immediate area while treatment is being undertaken. Contractors can advise when re-entry into treated areas is allowed. In general, treated outdoor areas can be safely re-entered and touched once the treatment has dried. This will depend on the treatment chosen by the contractor and the weather conditions.
Who will pay for residual barrier treatments?
Services should engage their own contractors to apply barrier sprays. Many services will already have relationships with local pest controllers.
All funded kindergarten providers (whether sessional or long day care) in the high risk LGAs will be provided with a one-off payment of $1,000 by the Department of Education as a contribution towards the cost of the recommended actions.
What do I tell families and the community?
It is important to inform staff and families of the public health advice and actions your service is taking. Template communications are available to support you to communicate with your early childhood community.
Where can I find more information?
- Better Health Channel information about preventing mosquito-borne diseases.
- Protect yourself from mosquito-borne disease - Better Health Channel has posters, social media tiles and banners.
- For support in considering the mosquito-borne disease risk for outdoor events, refer to: Decision support tool: Mitigating outdoor mosquito-related risk
For assistance with health advice please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.