HORSHAM resident Fiona Blair suffered in silence for six years – but now she is the proud creator of the Wimmera’s largest support network for victims of Ross River Virus.
Ms Blair was diagnosed in 2011 after major floods hit the region and symptoms have been ongoing since.
The virus not only attacked her physical health, but also compromised her mental well-being.
“I suffered depression and anxiety from the strain of having Ross River Virus,” she said.
“My marriage broke down, so I really wanted to do something – because partners of people suffering from the virus cannot completely understand what is happening as it is not a visual disease.
“There is so little known about it.”
Ms Blair said after having two babies in 20 months, her immune system was in a vulnerable state around the time she was infected with Ross River Virus.
“The condition of people’s immune systems at the time of infection has a big bearing on how the disease will play out,” she said.
Ms Blair said her digestive system struggled to absorb vital nutrients, she lost weight and her skin broke out into a rash which lasted for six years.
She said she had become known as the ‘scarf lady’ because she would cover her face and neck every time she held her children.
“I was diagnosed with six different skin conditions back then,” Ms Blair said.
“It hit me hard. I was conscious about it for so long.
“The frustrating thing with this virus is it gives the body the impression that you are getting better, but then it attacks you again.”
There have been 232 reported cases of Ross River Virus in the past 12 months, compared to 11 in 2016.
Ms Blair has organised a Horsham Ross River Virus Support Catch-Up on Saturday, August 26 at Up Tempo Cafe, from 1pm.
Nutritionist and On Track Eating owner Lionel Godwin will be a guest speaker and herbalist Des Lardner will also offer advice.
“If you are affected by Ross River Virus this will be a casual, friendly, and extremely informative session,” she said.
Ms Blair said people could visit the Horsham Ross River Virus Catch-up! page on Facebook for more information.