Fighting mosquito-borne diseases in Queensland

04 July, 2014

A partnership between the Australian and Queensland governments is targeting the spread of mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis and chikungunya at the source.

The Minister for Health, Peter Dutton, said the Australian government had committed almost $4 million to this initiative, which will direct funding to the Torres Strait Islands region and to health communications with Papua New Guinea (PNG).

"Torres Strait Islanders and other residents of tropical North Queensland are familiar with the health risks posed by mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever," Dutton said.

"While the death rate from dengue is low, it can spread quickly via mosquitoes and the illness can be debilitating.

"Because there is no specific antiviral treatment or vaccine available for dengue fever, preventing the spread of dengue relies on measures to stop mosquitoes breeding.

"Teams of experts will search out mosquito breeding sites in the Torres Strait, which they will treat with backpack mist-blowers and hi-tech tractor-mounted sprayers."

Dutton said recent outbreaks of dengue in North Queensland had resulted in 180 locally acquired cases in four different locations in Cairns, Townsville, Innisfail and Charters Towers.

"While dengue is mainly spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, it is also carried and spread by Aedes albopictus, or Asian Tiger mosquito - which, in Australia, is currently only found in the Torres Strait, but has the capacity to spread to mainland Queensland," he said.

Dutton said it was also anticipated that the Queensland government would commit funding to the Torres Strait Health Protection Strategy.

The strategy also supports communication with PNG to address health concerns arising from the free movement of traditional inhabitants within the Torres Strait Protected Zone.