Be on guard against mozzies this Easter

Read time

Don't let a mozzie bite ruin your Easter holiday plans, public health officials have warned.

Mosquito numbers in the Cairns region have increased at the moment, due to recent rains providing extra pools of water for mozzies to breed and lay their eggs.

Tropical Public Health Services Cairns Director Dr Richard Gair reminded people heading outdoors to participate in holiday activities such as hiking and camping to ensure they were protected against mosquito bites.

‘In coastal Far North Queensland, we traditionally see increased numbers of mosquitoes in the couple of weeks following high tide events or heavy rains,’ he said.

‘Mosquitoes can be annoying, but they are also carriers of harmful diseases such as Ross River fever and, Barmah Forest viruses.’

The Cairns and Hinterland HHS region has been dengue fever free since 2018, due to the success of the World Mosquito Program, which released mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia bacteria into the wild starting in 2011.

Dr Gair said the bacteria prevented Aedes aegypti mosquitoes from transmitting the dengue virus to humans.

‘This public health program – which has since been rolled out in several other nations – has resulted in the risk of transmission of the dengue virus in our region being extremely low,’ he said.

‘But we still need people to be mindful that there are other diseases out there that mosquitoes can transmit.

‘Barmah Forest virus and Ross River fever are both transmitted by the Aedes vigilax species of mosquito, which we are now seeing in big numbers across Cairns.

'Barmah Forest and Ross River viruses are also transmitted by Culex mosquitoes which are found in the bush including around campsites and bush walking trails.

‘Both of these diseases can cause debilitating illness for extended periods, including symptoms of fever, chills, headache and muscle and joint pain.’

Dr Gair said there were simple steps people could take to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, both at home and when in the great outdoors.

‘We recommend people take measures to avoid mosquito bites including wearing light-coloured, long-sleeved clothing to minimise skin exposure to mosquitoes and using an appropriate mosquito repellent containing DEET or picaridin on exposed skin when outdoors,’ he said.

'If camping, sleep under a mosquito net; and use mosquito coils when outside.

‘There are also a variety of things you can do at home to reduce the number of mozzies breeding in your backyards.

This includes emptying standing water out of any containers such as pot plant trays, buckets or old tyres; and keeping your rain gutters unclogged.’