Halls Head gardener Darren Lawrence admits he was blase about the likelihood of contracting the incurable Ross River virus.
The active 36-year-old is one of 36 West Australians diagnosed with the painful and potentially debilitating illness this summer amid warnings that holidaymakers need to take care as they head south.
After two summers of record reports of Ross River and Barmah Forest viruses in the South West, health authorities have urged locals and holidaymakers to avoid mosquito bites.
Since July 1, 168 West Australians have reported suffering Ross River virus, down from 324 at the same time the previous year.
The Australian Medical Association of WA has criticised the health authority warnings, saying the State Government needs to take over responsibility for the handling of the viruses, including spraying.
AMA WA president Richard Choong said the warnings were ineffectual and neglected a real health issue facing WA. He estimated Ross River virus cost the State billions of dollars in lost productivity every year.
"Telling people to somehow stay away from mosquitoes would almost be humorous if it wasn't such a serious health issue," Dr Choong said.
"We need to approach Ross River and other mosquito-borne viruses as a fight that we have to win. There is no cure for RRV and it can seriously affect sufferers for up to six months."
Mr Lawrence believes it was while he was working close to a nearby potato farm three weeks ago that a mosquito carrying the virus bit him.
It took about a week for the symptoms to kick in, beginning with a rash across his chest and painful aches in his ankles and knees.
"I do a physical job and I'm in really good health . . . but I could barely walk and it was making work extremely difficult," Mr Lawrence said.
"It felt like I was walking with broken ankles and I couldn't bend my legs, I couldn't sleep."
After trying vitamins, pills and herbal remedies, his only real pain relief has come from a device to boost circulation to his feet.
Department of Health scientist Michael Lindsay said Ross River and Barmah Forest viruses had been detected near coastal wetlands in the Peel and Geographe areas.
The department advises people to wear protective clothing, use a personal repellent and ensure children are protected against mosquito bites.
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