Former Stawell resident experiencing symptoms of Ross River virus 30 years after diagnosis

HEALTH SETBACK: Bill Miller was first diangosed with Ross River virus in 1987 and still experiences some symptoms today, such as lethargy and bodily aches. Picture: Kate Healy

HEALTH SETBACK: Bill Miller was first diangosed with Ross River virus in 1987 and still experiences some symptoms today, such as lethargy and bodily aches. Picture: Kate Healy

A former Stawell resident of 50 years who was diagnosed with Ross River virus in 1987 said he still experienced symptoms 30 years on. 

Bill Miller, now a Ballarat resident, was diagnosed with the mosquito-borne disease soon after being bitten by a swarm of mosquitoes in the Wannon River in 1987. 

“I remember they were everywhere and they were quite large and biting me,” Mr Miller said.

“Soon after we had a Workers Compensation officer inspect the site and he told me I was lucky to survive. 

“It took two weeks for the disease to identify itself, but I recall one night where I was sleeping in a bath of sweat.”

Mr Miller also recalled the moment he had to crawl across the lounge to change the channel on his television set as he had no energy to stand up or walk. 

“I would just have no energy whatsoever, I couldn’t stand or walk, it was very debilitating,” he said.

Mr Miller said 30 years after the first diagnosis, he still struggled with days of lethargy and bodily aches and pains.

“These days it might just be old age, but for a while I didn’t have the energy I used to have, I would run out of puff after not a lot of exertion,” he said.

“I experience pretty bad days of lethargy and have some nagging aches and pains.”

A total of 14 cases of the disease were confirmed in the Grampians region so far this year, just four cases below last year’s entire figure.

Six people in Melbourne were even diagnosed with Ross River virus this year and heath authorities warned it could be the first time it was detected in the city.

Mr Miller said not many people were aware of the disease.

“I would walk down to the hotel to have a few drinks with some mates, but I would have to call my wife to pick me up later only after a couple of drinks, I never had the energy to walk back,” he said.

“There was very little I could do at the time, I sort of just put it behind me to get on with our lives and now it is interesting to see it come up again today.”

Covering exposed skin, using repellents containing DEET or picaridin, limiting outdoor activity and sleeping under nets treated with insecticides were recommended to avoid the virus. 

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