Mosquito disease warning

Posted on 20 February 2019

BREEDING GROUND: Sydney University medical entomologist Cameron Webb sets traps in the Hunter estuary, an environment conducive to potentially disease-carrying mosquitoes breeding in vast numbers. Picture: Simone De PeakABOUT the quickest wayto catch mosquito-borneRoss River virus,experts say, is to be uncovered near the Hunter River in the morning or atdusk.
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Especially now. Acombination of warm days and rainfallin the Hunter has been conducive to mosquito breeding, and prompted a warning from health officials waryof the spread of mosquito-borne Ross Riverand Barmah Forest viruses.

“Heavy rainfall during the past few weeks has contributed to a rise in mosquito numbers, while the warm weather allows mosquitoes to survive longer and transmit the viruses to people,” Hunter New England Health public health physicianDavidDurrheim said.

“The symptoms of Ross River virus and Barmah Forest virus infection include fever, skin rash, painful joints and tiredness.”

Both viruses usually leave sufferers with a mild illness lasting a few days, though in some casesaches and tirednessset in for months.

Hunter residents are warned to fit flyscreens to theirdoors and windows, useinsect repellent and spray“knockdown” insecticide in bedrooms half an hour before bed.

To that, Sydney University medical entomologist Cameron Webb would addkeeping theyardclearof pots, buckets and any rubbish that can become“a mosquito factory”.

A record number of people in the eastern states –including NSW –were infected with Ross River virus early last year, anddengue fever cases havealso climbed in the past two decades.

Thepresent threat of mosquito-borne virus isn’t as dire, Dr Webb said, butshouldn’t be ignored.

“When you have a slow start to the mosquito season as we have this year, people get a bit complacent,” Dr Webb said.

“Around Newcastle there are well over 60 types [of mosquito] and half a dozen pose a significant risk.”

Culprit one: the salt marsh mosquito, foundin mangroves,Fullerton Cove, Hexham swamp and wider Port Stephens.

Dreaded for its bite, the species arrives in vast numbers and swarms nearwater.

The Australian backyard mosquito, though, is thought to bite more Australians than any other species.

“They’re in pot plants, bird baths, septic tanks,water tanks,” Dr Webb said.

“They’ll really interrupt your barbecue.”

A note ofredemptioncan be found inthe Hexham grey mosquito –immortalised by the Ossie the Mossie statue atHexhamBowling Club –that devoursother species.

“Each time you see a Hexham grey, you know it’s eating hundreds of its pesky cousins,” Dr Webb said.

“I don’t think there’s anywhere in Australia that pays tribute to mosquitoes as much as Newcastle.”


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