Chikungunya Now In Cairns, Queensland

Posted on July 9, 2013 in Mosquitos | Share on Facebook | Twitter | Google+

Chikungunya – Is it a problem for Australia?

It seems like every couple of months we are hearing news reports of a new mosquito borne virus being diagnosed here in Australia. Generally the people being diagnosed are being infected overseas and returning home. This gives us the impression that these diseases are only caught overseas so we here in Australia are safe from many of these mosquito borne viruses, this is somewhat true. However, diseases like Dengue Fever, Malaria, Ross River Fever & Barmah Forest Virus are able to be spread to other mosquitoes in the infected person’s home country. Once a mosquito bites a person infected with one of these diseases, the mosquito can become infected with the virus and pass it on once it bites another person. With our increasing temperatures, the areas in which mosquitoes are able to live and breed are changing and moving into areas formerly free of problematic mosquitoes.

The newest mosquito borne disease being talked about in the Australian media is Chikungunya. Chikungunya is a mosquito borne virus transmitted to humans by the virus carrying Aedes mosquitoes. The Chikungunya virus causes an illness with symptoms similar to Dengue Fever, with an acute period of fever lasting for from 2 to 5 days followed by prolonged pain in the joints of the extremities. The pain associated with Chikungunya infection in the joints can persist for weeks or months and in some cases years.

In the past 6 months 11 people from QLD have been diagnosed with Chikungunya and experts are increasingly worried about an outbreak in Papua New Guinea. Being such a close neighbour of Australia this increases the chances of outbreaks in Far North Queensland. Ten out of the eleven people diagnosed were infected in PNG with the virus affecting 3000 people in eastern PNG. Chikungunya is also prevalent in many of our favourite tourist destinations with people returning from parts of Indonesia infected with Chikungunya, the largest being in 2010 with a group of 10 people from the Northern Territory returning from Bali with the virus.

Health authorities in Qld has issued warnings to residents of Cairns, Port Douglas and Innisfail to take extra precautions with relation to mosquitoes at the present time by using repellents and making sure there are no breeding areas in close proximity to houses, this includes any areas of stagnant water from puddles of water in clogged gutters to ponds, anything that can collect water and stagnate can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Currently there are no vaccines or a cure for Chikungunya, the only cure is prevention. The only medical recourse is to try to alleviate the symptoms until the virus has run it ‘s course.

Check out these links below for further information on Chikungunya

Queensland Health

World Health Organization Fact Sheet

The Centre for Disease in control in the United States has issued a fact sheet for Chikungunya