Further cases of dengue fever on Mer

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Defend against dengue


  • The outbreak of dengue fever continues on Mer Island in the Torres Strait.
  • Residents should take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitos.

Dengue fever cases on Mer Island in the Torres Strait have risen, following an initial outbreak on the island last month.

Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service Public Health Medical Officer Dr Allison Hempenstall said a total of seven cases of dengue fever were now confirmed in residents or recent visitors to the island.

“We also have another 33 possible cases and 38 probable cases,’’ she said. “As such, we continuing to monitor the situation on Mer Island.

“Formal mosquito spraying control measures on the island were completed this week but we urge all residents on the island to continue to be vigilant and remove any potential mosquito breeding sites.

“Public mosquito control measures and education campaigns can only do so much.

“All residents also need to do their part and take action to eliminate mosquito breeding sites on their properties and protect themselves from mosquito bites.’’

Personal protective measures include:

  • Wear light-coloured clothing, (long-sleeved shirts and long pants wherever possible to cover exposed skin).
  • Use personal insect repellent containing DEET (di-ethyl toluamide) or Picaridin. DEET and Picaridin are safe for use by pregnant women. Always follow the manufacturer’s directions. Repellents usually only protect against mosquito bites for up to four hours.
  • Use long-lasting ‘surface’ or ‘cockroach’ insecticide spray in places where mosquitoes can hide.
  • Use other mosquito protection devices such as electric zappers and mosquito coils.
  • Install insect screens that are in good working order in your home and office. If not, sleep under a mosquito net day and night.
  • Tip it, store it, throw it — tip out water from containers weekly, or dry store containers under cover and discard rubbish properly. Mosquitoes breed in containers that hold water.
  • Remember, under the Public Health Act 2005, you can be fined by your local council if your home or yard promotes the breeding of mosquitoes.

Dr Hempenstall said while mosquitoes tended to be far more prevalent in normally wetter seasonal conditions between November and April, in the tropical north, they were active all year round.

“But no matter the time of year, our advice to local communities remains the same,’’ she said.

“The very best protection against mosquito-borne diseases is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes in the first place.’’

Infection with mosquito-borne diseases may cause illness ranging from mild to very serious. Illness may include flu-like symptoms such as:

  • pain in muscles and joints
  • rashes
  • headaches
  • fever.

“And remember, even mosquito bites that do not transmit diseases can be harmful,’’ Dr Hempenstall said.

“Bites can be very irritating and itchy, causing some people to scratch them until they break the skin, leading to secondary infection.’’

To prevent skin infections from mosquito bites:

  • Try to avoid scratching the bite.
  • Apply calamine lotion or another anti-pruritic preparation to bite areas to prevent itching,
  • Keep affected limbs elevated,
  • Wash hands before and after touching open wounds,
  • Watch skin sores for signs of infection.

If the bite areas become inflamed, clean with soap and water at least once a day, apply an antiseptic lotion and keep covered with a dry dressing.

Application of a cool compress (i.e. icepack wrapped in cloth) also can reduce inflammation. If skin sores become hot, red, swollen, or painful, see your doctor immediately.

Learn more about how to prevent mosquito bites on the Queensland Government website.