A major outbreak of epidemic polyarthritis in New South Wales during the summer of 1983/1984

Med J Aust. 1985 Oct 14;143(8):330-3. doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.1985.tb123054.x.


A large outbreak of epidemic polyarthritis (EPA) caused by Ross River virus (RRV) occurred in New South Wales in the summer of 1983/1984. The total number of cases was unknown, but 1196 cases were confirmed by laboratory tests. Most patients came from the area west of the dividing range, with especially large numbers in the Murrumbidgee irrigation area. Cases were reported from October 1983 to June 1984, with 60% of cases occurring in January and February. The seasonal pattern was similar throughout the state. Men and women were affected in approximately equal numbers, with the highest frequencies in the 30-39 years' age group. Clinical illness was uncommon in young children. Based on a detailed study of 118 patients from Griffith, arthralgia, lethargy, rash and headache were the most common symptoms. The average period of incapacity (defined as inability to resume normal duties) was about six weeks. On this basis, the cost of the epidemic was estimated at about $3 million. There were 257 cases of EPA in the Griffith Shire and it was calculated that approximately 340 RRV infections occurred in the shire. The implication is that, in this outbreak, most RRV infections resulted in clinical illness.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Arthritis / epidemiology*
  • Arthritis / physiopathology
  • Australia
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Disease Outbreaks / epidemiology*
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Seasons
  • Sex Factors