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Mosquitoes Intercepted at Ports of Auckland


Media Release

18 March 2005

Mosquitoes Intercepted at Ports of Auckland

Public health staff are checking for mosquito larvae and have set up traps at the Ports of Auckland after and adult female Culex quinquefasciatus mosquito was found in an imported car which had been discharged at the Port.

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry quarantine staff found the mosquito inside the car and immediately treated the risk goods and reported the incident to the Public Health Services staff who initiated an interception response.

Imported mosquitoes are regarded as a serious biosecurity threat. They may be a vector (transmitter) of a number of diseases of public health significance. The species found at Auckland has been associated with the spread of Murray Valley Encephalitis (in Australia) and West Nile Virus (in the USA).

The Ministry of Health's Deputy Chief Technical Officer for Biosecurity (Health) John Gardner said the car that contained the mosquito has been treated. In addition surveys have been conducted in the vicinity of the find to determine whether there were any more of these mosquitoes.

“There would appear to be two possible explanations for this find,” said Mr Gardner. “Either the mosquito was imported from overseas or it was a local insect that was bred in the vicinity of the port and took the opportunity to occupy the car when it was discharged from the ship. Either way there are concerns since there is a requirement to keep our pathways free of mosquitoes and mosquito breeding sites."

"We're confident that these measures have eradicated any other mosquitoes that might have been in the car, but the Auckland Regional Public Health Service is maintaining surveillance around the area. Health protection staff have placed a number of larval mosquito traps in the vicinity," said Mr Gardner.

“A positive aspect of this interception was the fact that yet again MAF quarantine service was able to detect the insect and initiate the response. This meant the hazard was eliminated. It is pleasing to see the stakeholders carrying out their duties so efficiently as this country’s biosecurity strategy relies greatly on everybody’s participation in keeping our borders secure,” said Mr Gardner.

Health protection staff will monitor the traps for at least three weeks to see if there is any sign the mosquitoes may have escaped into the local environment.

Exotic mosquitoes of public health significance have been intercepted on 37 occasions since January 1998.

Background:

Mosquitoes go through four separate and distinct stages of its life cycle: Egg, Larva, Pupa (resting stage), and Adult.

Exotic mosquitoes of public health significance have been intercepted on 32 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
Breeding in cavities and containers on 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 and respond to interceptions of exotic mosquitoes.

Biosecurity agencies ask that cargo handlers and members of the public who note 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 the MAF exotic pest hotline 0800 809 966.

ENDS

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