TWO imported cases of mosquito-borne viruses this month have prompted health authorities to warn Christmas holiday travellers to be vigilant and avoid being bitten while overseas.
The Townsville Public Health Unit yesterday confirmed a Cranbrook resident had earlier this month been struck down by dengue while another person in Mackay had fallen ill with the Zika virus in Mackay.
It’s understood the Zika case was contracted from Cuba while the dengue came from an Asia-Pacific country.
Take a look at how to use surface spray to protect your family from dengue fever and the Zika virus.
How to use surface spray at home to combat Zika and Dengue Fever
Public Health Registrar Dr Julie Mudd is urging holiday goers to seek genuine travel advice about health risks posed in the country they are visiting.
“Most outbreaks start when locals catch a mosquito-borne illness such as dengue or Zika while overseas and were still infectious when they returned home,” she said.
“People need to protect themselves from mosquitoes and use insect repellent when they travel to tropical countries where dengue occurs year round, especially in the Asia-Pacific region.”
TPHU director Dr Steven Donohue said the reported case of dengue fever in Cranbrook would last less than a week in the victim’s blood, in which time it could be picked up by a mosquito.
“We have given the patient advice to make sure they don’t get bitten, spray their house and wear repellent while they are sick,” he said.
“It’s about protecting the family and neighbourhood and furthermore, preventing an outbreak in Australia.”
Dr Donohue said the hospital’s public health unit was confident the reported case would not launch an outbreak, however there were concerns more may emerge.
“These days there are so many people travelling to Asia and the Pacific, we would expect to see a number of imported cases every year and work very hard to ensure these people do not set off a chain of infections,” he said.
“In Townsville, we are lucky to have the Eliminate Dengue mosquitoes that are a strain of mosquitoes resistant to the viruses, so they don’t carry them.”
Dr Donohue said the high risk areas were the inner suburbs in the region such as South Townsville, North Ward and places around Hyde Park and Heatley.
TPHU started its annual preventative program for the wet season earlier this month, targeting these high risk properties as well as backpacker, shared and low budget accommodation across the city.
Dr Mudd said while this included inspecting properties for dengue mosquitoes, spraying inside and around properties and setting mosquito traps, the community needed to help.
“People should tip out and store anything that can hold water around the home, such as tyres, pot plant bases, toys and junk as these are where the mosquito lays its eggs, and screen their homes,” she said.
“Residents should kill mosquitoes in and around the home using long-acting surface or cockroach spray.”
The last reported case of dengue fever was in February and came from a Mount Louisa resident.
Townsville City Council yesterday confirmed spraying had already begun with several rounds of the preventative activity occurring each year.