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Mosquito intercepted at Ports of Auckland

18 August 2003

Media Release

Mosquito intercepted at Ports of Auckland

A species of exotic mosquito has been intercepted by Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) Quarantine Service at Ports of Auckland.

Ochlerotatus japonicus, also known as the Japanese rockpool mosquito, was discovered by MAF quarantine staff at the weekend on an imported used sewage truck from Japan. The container where the mosquitoes were found was treated and the truck has been fumigated.

Ochlerotatus japonicus is an unwanted organism in New Zealand as it has the potential to survive and become established in New Zealand. It poses a human health risk and may be a vector for Japanese encephalitis.

This species is found in Japan but has been intercepted five times before in New Zealand, each time in imported used machinery from Japan.

Ministry of Health spokesperson Sally Gilbert says although the species was not detected until last weekend, after the vessel had left Auckland, Auckland Regional Public Health Service health protection staff immediately put in place a programme of enhanced surveillance in the area where about 40 Ochlerotatus japonicus larvae and several pupae were discovered.

The area where the truck was parked and where the vessel had berthed has been inspected and any potential habitat identified, treated or eliminated, and a number of adult and larval mosquito traps placed in the vicinity.

Enhanced surveillance programmes are also in place at ports in Wellington and Christchurch where the cargo ship had berthed after leaving Auckland. No exotic mosquitoes have been reported from the ports of Wellington and Lyttleton but the surveillance is being undertaken to ensure no exotic mosquitoes establish in these areas.

"Health authorities will continue with enhanced surveillance in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch for two to three weeks, to ensure the species does not get established here," says Ms Gilbert, Chief Technical Officer (Health) for Biosecurity.

Ms Gilbert says exotic mosquitoes of public health significance have been intercepted on 22 previous occasions since January 1998.

Exotic mosquitoes are most likely to enter New Zealand by way of:

- Being lodged in deck cargo on international ships - Breeding in water storage and open containers on fishing boats and yachts - Breeding or attached to used tyres - Lodged in used vehicles, used machinery and other imported goods.

MAF quarantine service staff are the first line of defence in the search for exotic organisms on imported goods. Public health staff carry out routine surveillance for mosquitoes.

Biosecurity agencies ask that cargo handlers and members of the public who note anything unusual on imported goods "see it, contain it, and report it". This message is actively promoted by the biosecurity awareness programme, Protect New Zealand.

This could mean closing off the vehicle, container, package or room, and reporting it to the MAF exotic pest hotline 0800 809 966.


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