Report of the 6th National Conference

Aedes Albopictus (asian tiger) Eradication Program

Page last updated: 07 July 2008

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Ronald Williams and Wayne Christian, Tropical Population Health Unit QHealth

Ronald Williams

“Good morning everyone. Firstly, I would like to talk a little bit about my background, and where I come from. My mother is from Saibai in the Torres Strait, and my father is an Aboriginal from the tip of Cape York. Before we begin we would like to start by recognising the traditional owners of this region for allowing us to speak from their land, thank the chair, EH staff and Queensland Health for inviting us to this get together, EHWs from across the states, ladies and gentlemen. The topic for our presentation this morning will be on Aedes Albopictus Eradication Program across the Torres Strait and the NPA. First up we will look at the project itself. Secondly, we will look at the aim of the project and thirdly, we will look at the results of the project.

The epidemic of dengue fever in the Torres Strait in 2004 caused deaths due to dengue haemorrhagic fever. This outbreak and others have been caused by the container breeding mosquito, the common dengue mosquito, Aedes Aegypti. This mosquito is the only dengue fever mosquito in Australia. The Asian Tiger mosquito Aedes Albopictus causes dengue fever overseas, and it was not here in Australia then. Now the discovery of Aedes Albopictus in the outer islands in 2005 has resulted in the Aedes Albopictus project to cover 12 infected islands. This team conducts routine mosquito monitoring surveillance and comprehensive effective mosquito control of 12 islands. It consists of 10 staff members - six in the control team, three in a surveillance team and one is our project manager.

When we are out there controlling and eliminating Aedes Albopictus from Torres Strait, we are also wiping out the dengue mosquito, improving community water storage infrastructure in Torres Strait, increasing knowledge regarding prevention of dengue in general, and increasing community council activity in control of container breeding mosquitoes. The project covers all communities in the Torres Straits, and five communities of the NPA region, the northern tip of Cape York.

The first priority is 12 islands. In 2005 there used to be 10 islands, but the mosquitoes have travelled by wind or boat to other islands. Before visiting any community to do controlling, the community council is contacted and the visit is discussed with the CEO and EHWs. The council then advises the community of the proposed visit, and the EHW works with the control team. Before leaving the community, the work carried out is discussed with the council and a written report is left with them to show which house was covered.

There is monitoring of mosquito numbers after the visit of the control team by a second entomology team (which is the surveillance team), to show that our control measures are working and that there are fewer mosquitoes after the treatments. As I stated before, as well as killing the tiger mosquito, there is also less Aedes Aegypti.

Lastly we like to state our claim that the project is very important - it reduces the population of mosquitoes throughout the region, and it also reduces the risk of dengue outbreak throughout the Torres Straits.

Before I finish I would like to thank the councillors, CEOs and EHWs of the Torres Strait for assisting us in performing our duties in the past and for the future. I want to thank each and every one of you for your cooperation this morning”.
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Wayne Christian

“I am from Bamaga, and have been with the Aedes Albopictus team since last October. I work mainly with the control side, the eradication team and more recently with the surveillance team.
The dengue mosquito looks like many other species of mosquitos in Queensland, because of the way they appear, and because of the coloration of their legs. To the average person it is hard to identify, unless you are looking under the microscope. As a rule of thumb, if the mosquitos are biting you indoors and during the day, then it is more than likely a species of the Aedes Aegypti, or the common dengue mosquito, or the Aedes Albopictus. These are mosquitos that are capable of carrying the dengue virus.

The dengue mosquito can also be identified by its behaviour – it bites people during the day whilst indoors, very hard to catch, very fast, usually darting back and forwards, likes to hide under furniture, likes to bite people around the ankles and feet areas, its bite is usually undetected and painless, and the bite may be mistaken for sandflies or midges. The adult mosquito prefers dark areas to rest, such as under houses and buildings.

Its favoured resting spots are usually places such as under the bed, tables and chairs, wardrobes, closets, on piles of dirty laundry, shoes, and dark, quiet rooms, or even on dark clothing. The dengue mosquito is in fact a unique mosquito because of its breeding habits. Unlike other mosquitos, the dengue mosquito prefers to breed in manmade containers that are around the house, for example, tiles, discarded rubbish, buckets.

This mosquito is somewhat domesticated. Unlike the Asian Tiger Tale, it is known to also breed in man-made containers, as well as in natural areas such as swamps and natural breeding sites.

Aedes Albopictus (Asian Tiger Tale) is a tree hole mosquito, found in areas such as natural forests, planted forests, scrublands and wetlands. The Asian Tiger Tale also has the ability to breed in man-made containers such as buckets, tyres, food containers and so forth, and in coconuts, palm fronds, tree holes. It is quite an adaptable breed of mosquito.

This particular species is similar to the Aedes Aegypti in that they are aggressive day feeders. The Asian Tiger Tale attacks humans, livestock, and other animals as a food source. Instead of buzzing around, it goes straight in for a feed.

The Asian Tiger Tale is capable of spreading the dengue virus, as well as Japanese encephalitis and West Nile. Like the Aedes Aegypti which usually attack around the leg regions, the Aedes Albopictus will go straight and hard to all parts of the body. Aedes Albopictus has been found in all the islands in the Torres Straits, except for Saibai.

Breeding on some of the islands can be attributed to excessive rubbish in household yards, or rubbish that is stored in council facilities or open land areas such as dumps. Cemeteries, discarded tyres, buckets, plastic tarpaulins and even white goods at the dump or at your house are all great breeding spots. (PowerPoint) Here
is an unusual photo of an engine with brake fluid found to be a breeding area - wherever there are containers of water.

AAEP is not a permanent fixture or program within Queensland Health - funding has been approved for the next two years of operation. The program is reliant on funding to keep it alive. Because of the life cycle for the program, Queensland Health is looking at a more strategic approach in delivering services to the island communities in the Torres Straits.
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By way of strategic planning, Queensland Health is looking at a more ‘hands on’ approach, promoting capacity building for community councils and community people, as well as providing the current service of eradication and surveillance throughout the island villages. Activities such as spraying, legalities of spraying, and the use of chemicals. At the end of the day, when the program is not funded the information is being passed on to the EHWs, and back to the communities to take responsibility for this.

In our current service delivery to the communities, we are involving the EHWs based in the communities. In doing so we are creating community links, working in partnership, education and training (EHW accreditation), and community involvement. Such involvement is community awareness of knowing where we are on the islands – we are well-known in the Straits as ‘the mossie guys’ – which is an example of education in the communities knowing what we do, and what the issues are. There is also a greater responsibility and care (sustainability), healthier lifestyles, it gives EHWs an opportunity to work up their own development plans and how to work in their own communities, develop ideal planning and management practices, and a safer environment.

To date we have had four rounds of eradication treatments on Mabuiag and Masig Islands, and three rounds of eradication treatments on Erub, Mer, St Pauls, Ugar Gaubudth, Warraber and Poruma. Second round eradication treatments have been held at Kubin, Iama and POW.

Other Islands such as Dauan and Boigu have had positive sites for Aedes Albopictus. However, the number of specimens collected was minimal, and did not require an immediate response at this stage. Saibai Island has proven negative to the Aedes Albopictus mosquito. However, surveillance is still conducted at certain times.

We don’t just discard these communities, and they continue to be monitored by our teams”.

Q1. “When you say that at some of the communities there wasn’t a need for an emerging eradication program, even if there were just a few mosquitoes don’t you think a program should have happened anyway”?

A1. Wayne Christian - “On Saibai they haven’t had it yet. Dauan found a couple of larvae, but it was more significant in outer islands”.

Q2. “I am asking about a preventative rather than a proactive approach, even if there was a small population, to stop it from growing”.

A2. Wayne Christian - “Population has a bit to do with it. The decision-makers are ENT Officers who are more inclined to give a better reason for why they do this community rather than another community”.

for further information
Ronald Williams
PO Box 1103, Cairns, Qld 4870
Ph: 07 4041 2990 Email:
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