Fears of Coast Ross River virus outbreak as mozzies breed

 

SWARMS of mosquitoes have again overrun suburbs across the Gold Coast, prompting a disease expert to warn conditions are ripe for a devastating outbreak of Ross River virus.

The last significant outbreak on the Coast was in 2015 when nearly 700 people contracted the incurable and debilitating disease.

Now, recent weather and the widespread movement of animals such as flying foxes has produced plague-like numbers of the insects and increased the risk of infection.

Griffith University disease ecologist Eloise Skinner warned the number of Ross River cases in 2020 could far exceed the 118 cases detected by Queensland Health last year.

The saltmarsh mosquito, Aedes vigilax, which often impact the Gold Coast.
The saltmarsh mosquito, Aedes vigilax, which often impact the Gold Coast.

"One of the things with Ross River virus and Barmah Forest virus is that it actually starts in animal populations," she said. "And what we've sort of seen this year, for example with flying foxes suffering food shortages, there's a lot more animals moving around and they may be coming into contact with mosquitoes more.

"We may be due for another outbreak of Ross River virus, which we saw in previous years.

"It does tend to come in cycles, every three to five years, so we haven't seen an outbreak yet. "But we have conditions conducive with something like that, given the increase in numbers, the movements of animals and the weather."

Gold Coast City Council has been fogging to reduce mosquito numbers. Picture: Cr Kristyn Boulton
Gold Coast City Council has been fogging to reduce mosquito numbers. Picture: Cr Kristyn Boulton

Gold Coast City Council has begun aerial and ground treatment, but Dr Skinner urged residents to take their own steps to prevent disease by covering up, using mosquito repellent and dumping out empty vessels of water, which are perfect breeding grounds.

Confirmed dengue cases on the Gold Coast rose from 23 in 2018 to 53 in 2019. Additionally, last year there was five cases of malaria, eight cases of Barmah Forest virus, four cases of flavivirus and one case of chikungunya virus.

Division 3 councillor Cameron Caldwell and Division 4 councillor Kristyn Boulton both took to Facebook to update residents.

Cr Caldwell said residents were experiencing "what feels like plague proportions of mozzies", but "highly experienced mozzie fighters" had been deployed.

Councillor Cameron Caldwell said the council was working to reduce numbers. Picture: Jerad Williams
Councillor Cameron Caldwell said the council was working to reduce numbers. Picture: Jerad Williams

Cr Boulton said she had again passed on concerns about "increasing mosquito numbers in Coombabah" and treatments were "starting to get results".

The council said recent rain provided ideal conditions for mosquito breeding and extra fogging was being carried out in response to complaints, "which is starting to show good results".

"Fogging treatments are scheduled this week from Jacobs Well down to Coombabah, Paradise Point, Hollywell, Runaway Bay, Coombabah and Biggera Waters - weather permitting," a spokeswoman said.

The council asked residents to empty containers of water, including from "less obvious places" like the water reservoir of self-watering pots, in bromeliads and on top of rainwater tanks.