Cairn's residents threatened with fines over dengue outbreak

Health officials in Cairns in the tropical northern part of Queensland, Australia are battling to contain an outbreak dengue fever in the region.

In the latest attempt to make people sit up and take both notice and action, homeowners are being warned to clean up mosquito breeding areas in their backyards or risk fines of almost $400.

This tough new approach has been adopted as 46 confirmed cases of dengue fever have been reported just one month after the first reported infection in Cairns, with another nine cases pending blood test confirmation.

Local council inspectors are said to be frustrated after finding more mosquito breeding sites despite repeated warnings and say the majority of the public refuse to take the outbreak seriously.

According to the Cairns Regional council's environmental assessment manager, Laurie Phipps, people appear complacent about cleaning out breeding sites, which has resulted in the threats of fines for non-compliance.

Suburbs where dengue fever cases have been identified will be targeted and Cairn's residents urged to remove old car tyres, pot holders, dog bowls or any other containers where water collects - the fines will come under the terms of a health order to clean the area up and could entail an on the spot fine of $375.

Mr Phipps says they have been forced to take this radical action because of a few irresponsible people.

The spread of the type-3 strain of dengue is the third outbreak in the area this year and the Tropical Population Health Services say "lure-and-kill traps" are being placed around dengue-prone neighbourhoods in North Cairns, Whitfield and Parramatta Park.

This mention of such traps will intrigue many responsible residents who would undoubtedly be prepared to take such action but it seems such traps are unavailable commercially but are in fact quite simple to produce at home.

All that is needed is a small black or red container (colours favoured by mosquitoes) and a can of surface spray which will leave a residue on the surface of the container.

But here comes the rub - this must be done once a month, throughout the year - as in the tropics mosquitoes are usually about all year round and experts say jumping up and down and getting excited when an outbreak occurs is akin to closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.

They suggest that if the majority of households practised this level of vigilance dengue outbreaks would occur far less often and say "fogging" (spraying with pesticides) is often ineffective because dengue mosquitoes tend to live indoors.

Queensland Health urges those who experience dengue symptoms to see a doctor immediately rather than wait until after Christmas and say the full extent of the outbreak may not be evident until the new year.

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