INTERNATIONAL research is coming to the Douglas Shire in an effort to reduce the risk of dengue and Zika outbreaks in the region. The Australian-led Eliminate Dengue Program is hoping to carry out the controlled release of mosquitoes across suburban areas of Port Douglas, Mossman, North Mossman, Mossman Gorge and Cooya Beach.
These mosquitoes carry Wolbachia, natural and safe bacteria that prevent viruses like dengue and Zika from growing inside mosquitoes and then being passed between people. The mosquitoes we release breed with the local mosquito population, passing Wolbachia to their offspring. Over time, the proportion of mosquitoes in our release areas that carry Wolbachia is expected to increase until almost all the mosquitoes carry the bacteria, increasing protection from dengue and Zika to the local community.
Similar work is being carried out in Cairns and Townsville, where Eliminate Dengue researchers have been able to successfully introduce Wolbachia into mosquito populations. Since 2011, there has been no evidence of dengue transmission in areas where Wolbachia carrying mosquitoes make up the majority of the Aedes aegypti population.
In Douglas Shire, the Eliminate Dengue Program will begin by monitoring the mosquito population and talking with local residents and community groups. The researchers hope to start field releases in October this year, at the end of the peak tourism season.
Eliminate Dengue spokesperson, Kate Retzki, is encouraging locals to learn about the project and the benefits it can bring to the region. “For many years the Douglas Shire has been burdened by dengue outbreaks,” Ms Retzki said. “We believe our method offers a sustainable solution to this problem that is safe for people, wildlife and the environment.”
Douglas Shire Council general manager operations Paul Hoye is confident the community will get behind the research. “I’ve lived here for many years now and have seen
I contracted dengue in one of the first outbreaks in Mossman in the late 1990s and it was without a doubt the worst pain ever, worse than childbirth, worse than dysentery, it was like a sledgehammer was smashing my bones constantly.
Even now I get paranoid about dengue, I’m spraying all the time and if I get bitten by mozzies it can make me anxious.
It probably took me about a year to recover from dengue. In the beginning I couldn’t work and we have our own business which made it really hard and very stressful.
If we can Eliminate Dengue in the Douglas Shire that would be a fantastic outcome because you wouldn’t wish that pain on anyone. the impact dengue has had on our region, particularly at our schools, and popular tourist destinations,” Mr Hoye said.
“The Eliminate Dengue program offers a unique opportunity to reduce this risk of dengue for people living in this beautiful part of the country.”
Council’s Vector Control Officer Luke Maloney with former sufferer Sharon Beechey