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Exotic Mosquito Specimens Discovered

3 September 2002

Exotic Mosquito Specimens Discovered In Concrete Mixer

More than 30 specimens of exotic mosquito larvae and pupae were discovered by MAF quarantine staff in a used concrete mixer on a vessel docked at the Port of Auckland this morning.

The Ministry of Health's Chief Technical Officer (Health) for biosecurity, Sally Gilbert, said that from early indications, the specimens were Ochlerotatus japonicus, formerly known as Aedes japonicus.

The larvae and pupae were found in a used concrete mixer imported from Japan.

``It's the biggest interception we've had on one piece of used machinery. Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry quarantine staff inspecting used vehicles and machinery did a great job here, as did the Auckland Public Health Service, which rapidly swung into action to help respond to the discovery,'' Ms Gilbert said.

``Mosquito traps will be set on the vessel tonight as a precautionary measure, and they will be checked by Wellington public health staff tomorrow during an inspection after the ship arrives in the capital.''

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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