Calls for cash and fogging to curb spread of dengue fever

As the Dengue fever outbreak in northern Queensland continues to claim new victims on a daily basis, many are calling for more funding to control the spread of the disease with some suggesting the only answer will be a fogging campaign.

The two Dengue fever outbreaks in Cairns and Townsville have now infected more than 130 people, with 15 local areas in Cairns affected and 123 confirmed cases and another 9 in Townsville.

The culprit is the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the only Dengue mosquito on mainland Australia and found in certain parts of Queensland - however the Asian tiger mosquito, or Aedes albopictus, which can also transmit Dengue, was found in the Torres Strait in 2005.

This is a concern because if the Asian tiger mosquito appears on the mainland, it will be able to spread the disease as far south as Victoria.

A jointly funded program by the commonwealth and Queensland governments to eradicate the Asian tiger mosquito in 2005 expires mid year and it is presently unclear what will happen next.

Experts say the Asian tiger mosquito is an excellent Dengue vector and they suggest that if something is not done soon the introduction of the mosquito to the mainland is almost inevitable and far more Australians will be exposed to the risk of Dengue fever.

The program provided a six-man team based in Cairns, who regularly visited the Torres Strait island communities to identify and eradicate mosquito breeding sites and there are concerns that the control program might be in jeopardy and the species might indeed spread to the mainland.

Health authorities have launched a campaign Dengue Blitz 09, aimed at curbing the spread of the outbreak and residents of affected areas are being asked to clear away any standing water in pot plants, tyres, saucers, fallen palm fronds and any other common back yard item able to hold water.

The Tropical Population Health Service says this is a critical period as heavy rains have flooded many yards and gardens and along with high temperatures, have provided ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes.

Dr. Scott Ritchie says many in the community are still not taking the outbreak seriously and unless people act and respond the Dengue epidemic will continue for a long time.

Dr. Ritchie says cleaning yards and storing items in a dry place would work to stop the mosquito breeding cycle - there will be a lot more mosquitoes in the next month.

Dengue fever affects people of all ages and those suffering from headaches, nausea, vomiting, fever, aches and pains or an unpleasant taste in the mouth should see their doctor.

Dengue fever is not endemic to north Queensland and is usually brought in to the area by an infected international traveller who then transmits it to the local mosquito population.

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