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Officials On Alert After Mosquito Discovery

4 September 2002

Health, Biosecurity Officials On Alert After Mosquito Discovery

Biosecurity and public health measures are planned for ports in Auckland, Wellington and Lyttelton after exotic mosquito larvae and pupae were discovered inside a vessel at the Port of Auckland yesterday.

More than 30 specimens of Ochlerotatus japonicus were found by Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry quarantine staff in a used concrete pump vehicle imported from Japan. The vehicle was in the ship's hold

The Ministry of Health's Chief Technical Officer (Health) for biosecurity, Sally Gilbert, said the discovery was the biggest interception yet on one piece of used machinery, and sparked a rapid response from public health and MAF officials.

No adult mosquitoes have been found to date.

Ms Gilbert said because the vessel is due to arrive in Wellington tomorrow morning, and will continue to the port at Lyttelton, public health and MAF quarantine staff in both regions have been alerted.

``The container where the larvae and pupae were found has been treated and we've set mosquito traps on the vessel and around the Auckland wharf as part of the response,'' Ms Gilbert said.

``When the ship arrives in Wellington, it will be met by Hutt Valley Health's Regional Public Health protection staff, who will inspect the light trap onboard and look for signs of adult mosquitoes. This process will be repeated in Lyttelton. If we do find adult mosquitoes, we will be looking at using an insecticide in the vessel itself to kill any further adult mosquitoes.''

Ochlerotatus japonicus can carry the Japanese encephalitis virus, which can cause fever and encephalitis, and may result in death for some patients. There has never been an outbreak of New Zealand acquired mosquito-borne disease in New Zealand.

Exotic mosquitoes that have public health significance have been intercepted on 14 previous occasions since January 1998.

Exotic mosquitoes are most likely to enter New Zealand by way of:
· deck cargo on international ships
· water storage and open containers on fishing boats and yachts
· used tyres, used vehicles, used machinery and other imported goods.

Current border control programmes involve MAF quarantine staff, who are the front line defence in the search for exotic organisms at the border. Surveillance of an area is carried out by public health staff.

Biosecurity agencies ask that cargo handlers and members of the public who see anything unusual on imported goods to ``see it, contain it and report it''.

``This could mean closing off the vehicle, container, package or room, and reporting it to 0800 809 966,'' Ms Gilbert said.

ENDS

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