Zika mozzies might yet call Australia home – report

Published: December 14, 2016
Zika threat

Most grey nomads are familiar with the nuisance value and the potential health threat posed by mosquitoes … but things could soon get an awful lot worse.

A new study published in the Public Health Research & Practice Journal warns that more must be done to stop mosquitoes carrying Zika and dengue from hitching a ride into this country and causing chaos. The relentless march south of these insects has the potential to severely disrupt the idyllic lifestyle of long-term travellers in Australia.

“If these exotic mosquito species find a way to our suburbs and become established, it creates the perfect conditions for a local outbreak of Zika or dengue,” the reports’s  lead author, Dr Cameron Webb, Medical Entomologist at Sydney University, told news.com.au.  “While we can’t prevent people infected with Zika or dengue coming to Australia, we can prevent the establishment of exotic mosquitoes species (such as Aedes aegypti and the Asian tiger mosquito Aedes albopictus), so that widespread outbreaks can’t occur.”

Dr Webb says that while it is possible for overseas travellers to bring the disease into the country, the mosquitoes normally found here are not suited to carrying them.

However, there is another problem.

“It is very easy for people to unwittingly bring exotic mosquito eggs back into Australia via water bottles, vases or other belongings,” he says. “If these exotic mosquito species find a way to our suburbs and become established, it creates the perfect conditions for a local outbreak of Zika or dengue.”

Once here, the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus will find Australia’s warmer than average temperatures to their liking.

Dr Webb also urges travellers to use the most effective insect repellents, which he says will contain DEET, picaridin or ‘oil of lemon-eucalyptus’.

Dr Webb says State and Federal health authorities must establish surveillance programs to provide early warnings of infestations of the new mosquito varieties.

“With local, State and Federal health authorities working closer together to respond to the discovery of these mosquitoes, we can ensure we remain free of any significant local disease outbreaks,” he says.

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