Queensland residents face the heightened risk of mosquito-borne disease after floodwaters that inundated about 70 towns and cities recede in Australia’s northeast, the state’s chief health officer said.
“We know we’re going to get a lot of mosquitoes all through Queensland, wherever there’s been floodwater,” Jeanette Young, chief health officer since 2005, said in a telephone interview yesterday. “As it recedes, it leaves pockets that are perfect for breeding mosquitoes.”
Viruses spread by mosquitoes include the Ross River and Barmah Forest strains, which can cause inflammation and joint pain lasting for weeks, according to Scott Ritchie, a professor of medical entomology at James Cook University based in Cairns, northeast Queensland. Flooding in the state has killed at least 26 people and left a disaster area bigger than Texas and California combined.
Outbreaks of dengue fever, the deadly mosquito-borne disease for which there is no specific drug or vaccine, are typically confined to the region north of Townsville, “which hasn’t had floodwaters,” Young said. “We don’t think we’ll see Dengue, but we’ll keep a very close eye on it.”
Disease outbreaks from floodwaters are “fairly rare” in Australia, Young said. People are at risk of contracting diarrheal diseases if they drink contaminated water, and need to watch out for any alerts from local governments to boil drinking supplies, she said.
Residents connected to the bulk water supply at Chinchilla, northwest of Brisbane, have been advised to boil drinking water “vigorously for three minutes” before use because of high levels of organic matter, Mayor Ray Brown said Jan. 12. The town of Dalby has shut its water treatment plant because of flooding, Brown said today.
To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Sharples in Melbourne at firstname.lastname@example.org