NZ border cleared of exotic mosquito

Press Release – Ministry of Health

Border health surveillance at Auckland Airport was stepped up over the Christmas / New Year period to ensure New Zealand remains free of a mosquito that can transmit dengue fever.

The Aedes aegypti or dengue fever mosquito transmits a number of viruses including dengue fever, yellow fever and the Ross River virus, and is particularly common across the Pacific and in parts of Australia.

Two adult mosquito and a number of larvae were discovered by the airport’s surveillance programme last month.

But following five weeks of habitat control and enhanced surveillance, there haven’t been any detections of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes now for three weeks. The border has now been declared exotic mosquito free once more.

This surveillance shows just how effective border health and biosecurity measures in New Zealand are and why constant vigilance is so crucial to ensuring New Zealand remains free of exotic mosquitoes.

Samoa is currently experiencing a significant outbreak of dengue fever, but the risk of acquiring dengue is not new. There are frequently outbreaks of the disease across the Pacific Islands; and over the past 5 years, many people have returned to New Zealand who became infected while visiting countries in Asia and the Pacific where the Aedes aegypti mosquito is established and is transmitting dengue.

There is a heightened awareness at the moment of the disease as holiday-makers travel between New Zealand and the Pacific.

Fortunately dengue fever is not spread by mosquitoes in New Zealand. It is not transmitted directly between humans and therefore spread of the disease within New Zealand is not a concern.

To avoid dengue fever, when travelling outside New Zealand in countries where the disease is prevalent, travellers should take precautions to prevent being bitten by covering up with clothing and wearing an effective repellent.

Travellers should check the safe travel site for advice about precautions and health advisories about countries they’re travelling to: https://www.safetravel.govt.nz. The Ministry of Health advises anyone who has recently travelled to Samoa and is feeling unwell to seek medical advice. The Ministry’s advice to travellers: https://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/healthy-living/travelling/avoiding-bug-bites-while-travelling

The Ministry of Health would like to thank Auckland Airport, its surveillance contractors, Auckland Regional Public Health Service and the Ministry for Primary Industries for its constant help to secure our borders.

BACKGROUND

More about exotic mosquitoes and what to look out for: https://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/healthy-living/environmental-health/pests-and-insects/mosquitoes/exotic-mosquitoes

Why are we concerned about the Aedes aegypti mosquito arriving in New Zealand?

This mosquito is notorious as the vector for a range of human diseases including Yellow Fever, Dengue Fever, Chikungunya Fever, West Nile Virus, Murray Valley encephalitis virus, Ross River virus, and Zika Virus. The Aedes aegypti mosquito is not established in New Zealand but has been intercepted at ports and airports on a number of occasions.

Where does the Aedes aegypti mosquito live?

This mosquito prefers artificial containers such as jars, vases, drums, tyres, refuse, roof guttering, water tanks. It prefers large containers but also subterranean habitats (wells, pipes, service pits) and natural containers such as tree holes, leaf axils. It prefers fresh water and will tolerate chlorinated water or slightly brackish water. It does NOT breed in natural ponds, ground pools or swamps.

How many times has an Aedes aegypti mosquito been detected coming into NZ?

Over the past twenty years (since January 1998), the mosquito has been detected twenty-one times at New Zealand’s border.

When is the Aedes aegypti mosquito most likely to bite people?

This species of mosquito bites throughout the day with peak activity at late afternoon to sunset. Its primary host is human but it also feeds on rodents, birds, dogs and reptiles.

What can people do to avoid mosquito bites?

New Zealand does not have mosquito-borne diseases but mosquitoes can still be a nuisance. To avoid being bitten at home, put screens on windows and doors, use repellent creams or sprays when mosquitoes are around. When outside, wear a repellent cream or spray, wear long sleeves and trousers or other protective clothing, use mosquito coils, use screens on tents and avoid places where mosquitoes are most active (such as swampy areas).

How can you get rid of mosquitoes?

The best way to get rid of mosquitoes is to stop them from breeding. Getting rid of things that hold water is a simple way to do this.

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