Townsville health authorities have announced their first confirmed case of locally-acquired dengue fever for the year.
A Mount Louisa resident tested positive for Dengue Serotype 2, which is a different strain to that responsible for the recent dengue outbreak in Innisfail.
Director of Townsville’s Public Health Unit, Doctor Steven Donohue, said the Type 2 strain had not been seen in Townsville in the last few years but had been recorded in South-East Asian countries recently.
“This has probably come in from overseas on a traveller who was unwell, didn’t get picked up by a doctor and has now spread via local mosquitoes,” Dr Donohue said.
The dengue virus is not endemic in Australia but could be carried by two local species of mosquito — Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus — if they bit someone carrying the virus.
These mosquito species are also able to host the Zika virus.
In January, Boigu Island in the Torres Strait confirmed six cases of Type 1 dengue fever while in February, Innisfail recorded four locally-acquired cases.
Dengue hits hard and fast
There are four strains of the dengue virus — Dengue Type 1, 2, 3, 4.
People can develop immunity to a strain of the virus through prior infection, however subsequent exposure to a different strain can result in more severe symptoms.
Symptoms of infection include sudden onset of fatigue, fever, severe headache and a possible rash.
“People tell you they have never been so sick,” Dr Donohue said.
“You feel like you have been run over by a truck, you are just hit very suddenly very hard.”
Race to eliminate dengue outbreak
With the virus already in the population of local mosquitoes, Dr Donohue said it was imperative that residents acted immediately to guard themselves against dengue.
The Public Health Unit recommends using household insecticide liberally throughout your home, concentrating on dark corners and under and behind furniture.
As the dengue-carrying mosquito breeds in fresh water in and around homes, it is important to eliminate small pools of water in toys, garden equipment and fallen leaves.
“Our teams are [spraying] in the known areas but people need to help themselves as well, particularly when there is uncertainty about where it is,” Dr Donohue said.
He said the city’s population of Eliminate Dengue mosquitos infected with wolbachia bacteria, (reducing their ability to transmit the virus) could help control the spread of this outbreak.
“We don’t expect the Eliminate Dengue mosquitoes to stop all possible outbreaks in their tracks,” Dr Donohue said.
“It just might mean that we get smaller clusters rather than bigger outbreaks.”