18 January 2009

Qld drought-breaking rains bring dengue

By Angela Harper, Sydney Morning Herald, January 17, 2009

Drought-breaking rain has led to an outbreak of dengue fever in north Queensland.

Cairns has 140 confirmed infections, while nine people have been struck down in Townsville so far, meaning numbers have doubled in less than a fortnight.

Health authorities say it is the worst outbreak since 2003-04 and are warning residents, that unless they take action to prevent hatching sites for the culprit, the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, the number of cases will continue to rise.

Queensland Health is so concerned about the outbreak and an impending hatching, they have increased the number of environmental health officers, who carry out mosquito control in the 11 affected suburbs, from seven to 16.

"This affects the whole Cairns community, so unless they (residents) start taking action in their own homes ... this could stretch on for many months," a Queensland Health spokesman told AAP.

"We're expecting a large number of mosquitoes to hatch next week.

"The rain certainly hasn't helped ... but it only takes one person to start an outbreak."

The Cairns outbreak is linked to a person from Indonesia and they expect the Townsville cases have come from Singapore.

Scientists are able to track the root of the outbreak through testing and reporting procedures between Australia and Asia.

Scientists have not ruled out global warming as a factor for the rise in dengue cases.

As southern Queensland warms, the mosquitoes can survive further down the state with Gladstone now reporting its existence.

Residents should empty water from any containers that could act as a site for the mosquito to lay its eggs.

Dengue fever symptoms include, fever, sunburn-like rash, sore eyes and lethargy.

Copyright © 2009. Fairfax Digital

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