Friday 13 February 2009

Dengue hits home

Published in the Cairns Bulletin, February 2009

Dengue hits home

Sasha McGrath is number 274, and the first in the northern beach community of Yorkeys Knob to contract Dengue fever. Sasha observed all the guidelines to rid her home of mosquito breeding places. New insect screens were installed and her courtyard was policed every day for stagnate water gathering.

As Cairns Bulletin goes to print, 283 cases of Dengue have been declared by Tropical Population Health Services at Queensland Health. It’s believed that this is the worst outbreak of the mosquito-borne virus in the Cairns region for 15 years. Port Douglas and Townsville have also been affected.

Sasha McGrath, with Cookie, recovering at her Yorkeys Knob residence.

“The evening after I was bitten, my bones ached and it felt like knives stabbing in my head,” Sasha said. “I went to see the doctor first thing in the morning and had some blood tests. It was clear that my symptoms showed I had been bitten by a mosquito carrying the Dengue virus.”

“It’s a horrible feeling. My eyes ached and the headaches are awful. I’m feeling lethargic and weak,” says Sasha. “I’m now paranoid of getting bitten again and passing this onto my daughter.”

As a store manager at Smithfield Centre, she couldn’t afford to take time away. “I was told that I needed to rest in ‘lock down’ for at least two weeks.” Sasha was advised to shower three times a day and change bed linen daily.

Mosquitoes don’t live in swamps or rivers, but breed in residential areas where water gathers and becomes stagnant. It is the female mosquito that spreads the Dengue virus, often identified by black and white striped legs, that suck blood for laying their eggs. The fever can be fatal if bitten a second time, causing dengue hemorrhagic fever.

In Bolivia’s tropical climate, 9,000 have be infected this year with the Dengue virus, a 20 fold increase over 2008. Health officials are expecting as many as 50,000 cases by the end of the wet season. The army have been fumigating residential areas, and like the Cairns Regional Council, are fining residents for failing to clean their properties.

According to the World Health Organisation, in the last 15 years, the number of people infected, doubled to nearly 1 million. Every year, more countries report Dengue infections. The mosquito that infects most people with Dengue, the striped Aeds Aegypti, survives better in warm wet climates. Regions with rising temperatures and longer wet seasons are seeing larger outbreaks.

What to do…

EMPTY CONTAINERS- A daily ritual of empting areas where water has been collected, is the first line of defense, according to the Queensland Health.
- Remove fallen palm fronds, empty tarpaulins, move old tires under cover. Ask your neighbours to do the same.

REPELLENT- Use a skin repellent containing DEET or Picaridin.
- Coils and Citronella burners are an economical way to discourage mosquitoes around the home.
- Residents should advise Council on 4044 3044 or Tropical Public Health Unit on 4050 3600 or any information about mosquito breeding sites.
- Visit the Govt's Health website

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