Written by Bec Townsend
Townsville has become ground zero in the war against Dengue Fever.
You may have seen the vans driving around town, received a flyer in the mail or like me, already participated in the Eliminate Dengue program by hosting a breeding bucket. But what is Dengue Fever, what is in the magic white buckets and how does the program work?
I've done some research of my own to find out what the buzzzzzzzzzz is about...
Dengue Fever is "a mosquito-borne tropical disease caused by the dengue virus" (from Wikipedia) and is transmitted to humans through bites from mosquitos infected with the virus. Symptoms include fever, muscle and joint pain, headaches, and a measle-like skin rash. In some more serious cases, Dengue Fever can lead to life threatening complications. It's certainly not a disease to be messed with.
One of our Townsville Women contributors, Tamara Dawson, recently wrote about her battle with Dengue and you can read Tamara's story here.
Living in Townsville, mozzie bites are as part of our lives as sweating off our makeup before breakfast, dodging stingers at the beach and having a love/hate relationship with the goat track. So how do we avoid the dreaded Dengue?
There are 5 strains of Dengue fever and none of these strains has a preventative vaccine! Unfortunately while we can protect ourselves against diseases such as influenza, measles and polio with a simple needle jab in the arm, there is no such needle for Dengue Fever. Once a person has been affected by Dengue Fever, they are protected by a short term immunity but basically every person is at risk of catching the disease - unless you want to go to the extreme and lock yourself up in a mosquito proof, completely sealed room of course!
So scientists and researchers have to come at this disease from a different angle and instead of treating the people affected by the virus, they turned their attentions to the mosquitos themselves. What they found is a naturally occurring bacteria called Wolbachia that is proving to be a key element in reducing the mosquitos ability to pass on the Dengue Fever virus to humans.
So how does the Wolbachia bacteria get into the mosquito population? By breeding.
Hold up, WHAT?! They want to 'breed' more mosquitos?
Yes it sounds crazy given that up til now the message has been strongly against mosquitos and breeding more. However, the Eliminate Dengue team are setting up specialised breeding programs with a select process that isn't about boosting the quantity of the mosquito population, but boosting the quality of mosquitos in the local ecosystem.
So how does the Eliminate Dengue team do this? Well this is where the little white buckets come into play.
Inside the 'magic bucket' is Wolbachia mosquito eggs and food. The bucket is then sat in a shady place outside and over the following two weeks the eggs will hatch, develop into adult mozzies and fly out into the world to breed with other mosquitos - thus passing along the Wolbachia bacteria to their offspring who then grow up to pass it onto their offspring and so on and so on....
Participation in the Eliminate Dengue program is voluntary and easy! In fact you don't need to do anything except provide a shady place for a bucket to sit - the Eliminate Dengue team take care of everything else. When I was host to a bucket, it sat under the front stairs and I actually forgot it was even there. Every two weeks, the bucket is replaced with a new one and the program run for 10-12 weeks. And most importantly during this time I did not notice an increase in mosquito activity around our house.
Eliminate Dengue is wanting to start delivering mozzie boxes to local areas from November, 2015, but the program needs community support in order to go ahead.
To nominate your house as a mozzie box host, simply go to www.signuptownsville.com or phone 1800 005 622. If you have any further queries about the program and Dengue Fever research contact the Eliminate Dengue team and they will answer any questions or concerns you may have.
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