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Ministry of Health welcomes mosquito review


Ministry of Health welcomes mosquito review

Recommendations made by the Office of the Auditor-General after reviewing the official response to the southern saltmarsh mosquito incursion are already being implemented, the Ministry of Health said today.

Chief Technical Officer (Health) for biosecurity Sally Gilbert said the report provided a valuable, independent perspective on the way the Ministry has managed the response to the southern saltmarsh mosquitoes.

``We're very pleased with the information and constructive advice in the report. It has been most helpful and we've already started working on the recommendations directed at the Ministry,'' Ms Gilbert said.

``It also builds on the detailed analysis in the internal review of mosquito surveillance we commissioned earlier this year, so we now have complementary reports to work with.''

The southern saltmarsh mosquito (Ochlerotatus camptorhynchus) was first detected in Napier in December 1998. Because the mosquito can transmit Ross River virus to humans and poses a public heath threat, the Ministry of Health is responsible for managing the incursion response.

Since 1998 the mosquito has been detected in Tairawhiti, Hawke's Bay, and around Kaipara Harbour, including Mangawhai and Whitford.

A major exercise has been the development of the Kaipara Harbour eradication programme, which began in October this year. The programme has established substantial eradication zones around the harbour and at the outlying sites at Mangawhai and Whitford.

Ms Gilbert said that this means when adults or larvae are detected, the standard operating procedure is to initiate targeted treatment of infested areas.

``One southern saltmarsh adult was found recently in Mangawhai. Staff immediately carried out a ground treatment operation,'' she said.

About $5 million was approved for spending over four years to eradicate the exotic mosquito in Hawke's Bay and Tairawhiti, and to contain and control the spread of the mosquito in the Kaipara and Mangawhai areas.

Earlier this year the Government decided that the response in the Kaipara area would move to full eradication and the other eradication programmes would continue as planned. The Government announced a further $30 million for the attempted eradication of the southern saltmarsh mosquito from Kaipara, and including Mangawhai and Whitford.

Ms Gilbert said the application of treatment controls were continuing in Porangahau and Tairawhiti. Treatment agents are no longer being applied in Mahia, although surveillance is continuing.

The southern saltmarsh mosquito is a potential carrier of the debilitating Ross River virus disease. Symptoms include pain and tenderness in muscles and joints, fever, chills, sweating, a headache and tiredness. A rash may also briefly appear on the torso and limbs.

Background Information: What is Ross River virus? Ross River virus disease is known as epidemic polyarthritis (inflammation of the joints). Symptoms can be wide ranging, from pain and tenderness in the muscles and joints to flu-like symptoms of chills and fevers. Most people fully recover within a month of the onset of symptoms. No locally acquired cases of Ross River virus disease have been reported, however, people carrying Ross River Virus will be in New Zealand regularly (eg tourists or travellers returning from Australian states where Ross River Virus is endemic). Ross River virus disease can only be transmitted by mosquitoes, it cannot spread from person to person.

What is the southern saltmarsh mosquito life cycle? The mosquito life cycle has four stages: The EGGS are laid in water. Southern saltmarsh mosquitos lay their eggs above the surface of the water and the eggs do not hatch until there is a king tide or heavy rainfall to wet them. The LARVAE hatch out and swim in water. The larval stage is when the mosquito is easiest to detect and is vulnerable to eradication measures. The PUPAE is the resting stage between LARVAE and ADULT. The pupa is difficult to detect. The ADULT is the flying and egg-laying stage of the insect's life cycle.

How much funding did the Government allocate to controlling and eradicating exotic mosquitoes earlier this year?

The total funding is approximately $30-million nationwide over four years. The money will be used to continue the eradication programme for the exotic mosquito in Tairawhiti, Mahia and Porangahau as well as the Kaipara and Mangawhai areas. The eradication programme in Napier has concluded, with no sign of southern saltmarsh mosquitoes for over two years.

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